Dazed and confused: summer on screen


Whilst it is easy to romanticise the idea of watching films in the winter season, wrapped up in a blanket with a hot chocolate or tea, there is something so idyllic about summer films. With the momentum of exams and termtime finally subsiding, it seems an apt time to escape the existential dread of graduate life by indulging in your favourite summer films.

After a long term living in the Billy B, sitting down in front of the television in the evening, perhaps after a day in the sun, cements the freedom that summer can bring. Be it a family favourite like The Parent Trap, or party films like Dazed and Confused, blockbusters of this season bring an undisputed sense of celebration. With festivals of art and culture overtaking the UK, including the renowned Edinburgh Fringe, student festivities, such as the Durham Film Festival, as well as the international Cannes Festival, what better way to put work out of your mind than inspiring the summer with creativity and adventure.

Whether watching an outdoor film screening, in a garden while the sun lovers, or enjoying short films at arts festivals, there are some indisputable summer favourites. The first that seems to come to mind is the classic summer-loving film of 2008, Mamma Mia, which, at one point or another, I’m sure has made most girls of a certain age contemplate the possibility of beginning a new life on a Greek island. With its long-anticipated return in the glorious summer of 2018 with Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, I can imagine no setting better than watching it in an open-air cinema surrounded by my Rosies and Tanyas. The film perfectly encapsulates the romance of holidays abroad, with boat trips, parties and musical sing-alongs resonating with the air of freedom that summer brings.

As I enter my final few weeks in Durham, I can’t help but feel a real affinity with the cinematic ideal of walking off into the sunset

Another film that beautifully relays the liberation and romantic nature of the summer season is Call Me by Your Name. Despite controversy (both around the film’s storyline and the conduct of the cast) the brilliance of the film still stands in its unwavering depiction of the idyllic Italian countryside, as well as what it means to fall desperately in love. Set entirely within a holiday villa in Italy and the surrounding village, the film reimagines the narrative of summer love through a queer lens. While set in the 1980s, the film does not hone in on typical storylines of AIDs or queer oppression, making for a unique film which sets aside many dominant ideas surrounding the queer experience and follows conventions often reserved for straight romances: coming-of-age meets the romance of the pastoral. Call Me by Your Name is a love letter to the idolatry and leisure of summer, something I hope to aspire to in my post-dissertation summer.

Moving away from romance, summer also brings us stories of friendships and adventure. Stand By Me sees four friends trekking across Oregon to find a dead body, taking one of their final adventures together before summer ends and they head to middle school. The film is based on Stephen King’s novella The Body, taking inspiration from his own experiences in 1960s rural America. Yet this setting doesn’t undermine the film’s relatability. Stand By Me showcases the kind of mindbogglingly boring experiences of endless summers, sweaty hikes, and games with friends just to make the time pass, stupid conversations and nonsense arguments which still feel like the most important thing in the world. For those spending their last Easter term at Durham, this film may hit all those points of trying to squeeze every moment out of the sunny days with your friends, before moving on to the unknown. Though as closely as one could relate to the film, it more than anything provokes an intense nostalgia for late childhood, as the final line in the film so poignantly says: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?”

From romantic liberation to life-changing love to final journeys with childhood friends, summer embodies those big transitions in life. As I enter my final few weeks in Durham, I can’t help but feel a real affinity with the cinematic ideal of walking off into the sunset. The summer is reaching its height, and right now all we can hope for is to embrace this season with all the experiences it will bring, a time to reconnect with people, to wander around and waste those days with so few responsibilities, to involve ourselves in arts and culture away from our degrees. It’s a time to do nothing and everything before setting off onto the next stretch of life, and hopefully we can take some inspiration (or some warnings) from summer films, to guide us on our way.

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