“The Summer of Sangaile”
“First Love is a Journey, Not a Destination”
Alante Kavaite’s film, “The Summer of Sangaile”, is a coming of age tale about a young woman that discovers herself during one very important summer. In rural Lithuania, 17-year-old Sangaile (Julija Steponaityte) meets (Aiste Dirziute) at a local air show where a stunt pilot shows off fancy tricks. Sangaile is fascinated with the planes, and Auste is equally entranced by Sangaile so she fixes a drawing so that Sangaile gets to a ride in the plane with the pilot. However, Sangaile does not take the chance. Having learned of Auste’s place of work, Sangaile goes to visit her at a coffee shop and the two girls are soon fast friends (to say the least). Sangaile is conflicted young woman and she and her mother do not get along. Sangaile feels the pain of disappointments but then Auste shares thoughts with her and we watch Sangaile begin to discover what she is capable of doing.
The film is something of a psychological portrait of a young woman who is lost in a cold world and she cannot seem to relate to anything or anyone. We see her as emotionally unstable and she is a cutter. We are led to believe that Auste is her opposite. She is no cares and is an arty person who just takes everything in. Sangaile needs someone like Auste, someone who will help her find her way. The name Sangaile means strength, something that she is lacking. Her self-loathing results in self-harm— Sangailė cuts herself with a protractor. The film is about how she deals with her fears, and the girl who is her inspiration to grow into her own.
Austė is a photographer who likes to make elaborate dresses for her subjects. I see this as a metaphor for the girls’ relationship— Auste is the only person who truly sees Sangailė as she is. When she sees the scars on Sangaile’s arm and doesn’t say anything aloud but we see emotion on her face. From being friends they transition into lovers and there are some very tender and sensitive lovemaking scenes in the film. The way that they look at and touch is beautiful yet they laugh a lot.
Sangaile’s bedroom has only the necessities and her desires are constantly held in check. This changes with the arrival of Auste who challenges her and gives us confidence by showing her what she can do by just opening herself. It’s a gentle but essential push, from one woman to another, and it’s amplified by the sight of another woman (her mother) whose dreams have long since passed her by.
It is the strength of performances by the two women that propels the film. They exhibit wonderful emotion and the beautiful cinematography emphasizes that. Several innocuous scenes tend to present an ominous tone to the film and this makes the viewer uncertain about what to expect. The film will undoubtedly be compared to “Blue is the Warmest Color” which is not quite fair since “Blue” is a superior film all around.