Delphinsommer [Dolphin Summer] (2004)

Delphinsommer
Director: Jobst Oetzmann
Writer: Regine Bielefeldt
Cast: Anna Maria Mühe, Samuel Finzi, Sophie Rogall, Tino Mewes, Birge Schade, Lena Stolze, Rainer Sellien
Seen on: 5.7.2022

Content Note: domestic violence, religious sects, suicide

Plot:
Nathalie (Anna Maria Mühe) moves with her mother Caroline (Birge Schade) and her step-father Gregor (Samuel Finzi) to Berlin. It’s a big change for them, not only because they were in a small town before. It will be the first time that Nathalie attends a mixed school as her religious family had made sure so far that she attended only girls’ schools. As they are welcomed by the Berlin chapter of their congregation, Nathalie is determined to adhere to her religious principles in Berlin, too. But she can’t help to start questioning things.

Delphinsommer is a TV movie and that does show at times. At times it’s a bit shorthanded, at times it’s a bit on the nose. But it is interesting enough to watch.

The film poster showing various stills from the film.

[Slight SPOILERS]

What I found most interesting about Delphinsommer is that it allows for wriggle room within the sect that Nathalie belongs to. It’s not just evil. We see that in the beginning, that Nathalie is happy in her church. It really does provide a community. Caroline and Gregor discuss things like whether they can allow Nathalie to read the class reading and seem to have a good, stable relationship. More often than not, portrayals of sects are so cartoonishly evil that you wonder why anybody would stay or join in the first place. This is not the case here.

But then the film is very clear how quickly things can turn really bad when you don’t toe the line, when you misbehave – whatever that misbehavior might be. Then we find the evil and ugliness or such a totalitarian community. And we also see how much Nathalie needs to make any steps outside the community. It’s not enough that she starts questioning things. She also needs outside support and an alternative, she needs an idea of what her life without that sect could be like.

Nathalie (Anna Maria Mühe) getting a talking-to from Gregor (Samuel Finzi) as her mother Caroline (Birge Schade) looks on.

As I said, the film has no time for subtlety, so Nathalie can’t just like dancing, she needs to be told that she has the biggest promise the dance teacher has ever seen. Gregor can’t just be an influence on Sibille’s (Sophie Rogall) mother to reign Sibille in, he actually beats her up. And Sibille can’t “just” despair, she needs to kill herself. But at least the film is very clear in the story it tells.

My biggest issue with the film was Gabriel (Tino Mewes), Nathalie’s classmate and love interest who plays an integral part in her rebellion. I never got a clear grasp of him as a character, and I was a little creeped out by the role he took on in Nathalie’s life. I would have liked it better if the film had focused more on Nathalie’s biological father Michael (Rainer Sellien), though his introduction was also a little weird.

In any case, overall Delphinsommer is not bad at all for a TV movie about a very serious topic. It’s not like you have to have seen it, but you could watch much worse.

Gabriel (Tino Mewes) holding Nathalie (Anna Maria Mühe).

Summarizing: very watchable.

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