Summer Scars (Nos Cérémonies)
Summer Scars, the feature debut from French filmmaker Simon Rieth (who co-wrote the screenplay alongside Léa Riche), is a visually bold and tremendously bizarre tale of sibling rivalry that sees brothers Tony and Noé (played by real-life brothers Simon and Raymond Baur) battle for the affections of their childhood sweetheart, Cassandra (Maïra Villena) when they return home years after a life-changing accident.
As youngsters, the boys’ relationship is characterised by intense competition; they are constantly challenging each other and pushing themselves to do dangerous things. The film’s opening is a wild distillation of this bond as we see the pair prepare for what looks to be a duel to the death with swords. It’s vibrant vision instantly grabs viewer’s attention, but this scene also foreshadows tragedy to come. While playing a game of chicken on top of a cliff, Tony plummets over the edge to his death below. Noé runs to the dead body of his brother on the rocks and gives him an affectionate kiss on his mouth as a tearful farewell. However, in the next scene Tony is completely unharmed. It’s a jarring plot development that never gets any explanation, which will likely confuse and frustrate many amid how impenetrable Rieth’s film is.
On a visual level, Summer Scars is wondrous. Vibrant colours overwhelm the screen, adding an element of the fantastical to the otherwise dead-serious execution. Moreover, the filmmaker deploys sound design to a frightful effect: the violence in this film hits hard. Whether in the mighty bangs from upstairs as the boy’s mother is being abused by their father, or Tommy repeatedly and viciously banging his head as some sort of self-flagellation for wronging his brother, viewers will feel every blow.
Trying to make sense of Summer Scars, however, is an entirely different matter. Visual storytelling is one thing, but with nothing concrete for audiences to grab onto, unravelling the mysteries of this script is a near-impossible task. It’s an allegory of sibling rivalry taken to an extreme, though what sort of statement the filmmaker is trying to make is the biggest mystery of all.
Summer Scars (Nos Cérémonies) does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch a clip from Summer Scars (Nos Cérémonies) here: