– Samuel Perriard’s second feature film homes in on a family wrestling with long-repressed internal tensions which explode during a holiday in southern Italy

Review: 8 Days in August

Julia Jentsch and Florian Lukas in 8 Days in August

Having attracted attention from audiences and critics alike with his provocative debut film Black Panther – The Story of Emilie and Jacob which portrayed the forbidden relationship between a brother and sister, Samuel Perriard is continuing to explore grey zones in seemingly unblemished families in his second feature film 8 Days in August [+see also:
interview: Samuel Perriard
film profile
]
, which was presented at the Hof International Film Festival and has now screened in the Solothurn Film Festival’s Visions section. His protagonists, this time round, are a couple of forty-year-olds grappling with family dynamics which are far more complicated than they seem at first glance. As was the case in Black Panther, the world around the film’s protagonists is blind to the deep feelings uniting (or dividing) the pair, as if the microcosm in which they’re (willingly) imprisoned were only accessible to those who built it. 8 Days in August depicts a breaking point where appearances give way to conflicts and middle-class perfection to the spontaneity of winningly imperfect human beings.

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As is their yearly norm, as if an indisputable, deeply entrenched tradition, Helena (Julia Jentsch) and Adam (Florian Lukas) are spending the summer holidays with their son Finn (Finn Sehy) in the company of their old friends Ellie (Sarah Hostettler) and Matti (Sami Loris) and their teenage son Luca (Yaron Andres). For the space of several days, the landscapes of southern Italy become their own private paradise where they can forget the tensions and stresses of a now suffocating everyday life. But at the end of a day at the beach, an unexpected event upends this idyllic calm: on the way home, Finn faints and falls to the ground. Admitted to hospital, the teenager chooses to ignore the incident and decides not to reveal the possible cause for his unexpected illness. His doctors allow him to return home but doubts around what really happened relentlessly hang in the air. In the wake of Finn fainting, the family’s dynamics and the seeming understanding and harmony between the two couples seem to give way to suspicion and things left unsaid, as if Finn’s accident had suddenly revealed the imperfect nature of their lives which aren’t quite as enviable as we thought. Even Adam and Helena’s relationship slowly crumbles, sliding into an underlying, ongoing conflict. Doubts surrounding the trigger for Finn’s episode continue to grow and the harmony which characterised those first few days of the holiday evaporates like snow in the sun.

8 Days in August depicts an eight-day holiday which descends into an ordeal and an out-and-out psychological war, driving its participants to square up to one another with dark and long-repressed emotions. In this film, the very concept of family – as heteropatriarchal society understands it – is subject to in-depth, clinical analysis which highlights its absurdities and contradictions. In fact, despite their seeming modernity and open-mindedness, even Adam and Helena are forced to confront the shadier side of their happiness, wrapped up as it is in the world of appearances. Without judgement, quite simply revealing them in all their brutality and suffocating “normality”, Perriard puts heteronormative families to the ultimate test.

8 Days in August is produced by Catpics, Helios Sustainable Films SRL, SRF Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen and SRG SSR.

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(Translated from Italian)





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