The Summer of Sangaile: The dizzying passions of youth

by Fabien Lemercier

Discovered with the extremely original Fissures [+] (2007), Lithuanian director Alantė Kavaitė, who lives in Paris, is finally back with her second feature, The Summer of Sangaile. The film confirms the director’s indisputable talent, based on her delicate grasp of sensations. Unveiled with its world première in the World Dramatic Cinema section of the Sundance, the movie, also selected at the 2015 Berlinale Panorama marks a return to her roots for the director who filmed this European co-production bringing together France, Lithuania and the Netherlands in her native country.

The Summer of Sangaile plunges with great sensitivity into a key moment in the life of a young 17-year-old girl in search of new horizons and faced with the burden of her secrets and fears. A seemingly classic theme that Alanté Kavaïté succeeds in subtly transcending by basing her tale on the world of aerobatics (which exerts an irresistible and inaccessible pull on her protagonist), but also by capturing the intensity of everyday life at the end of adolescence, an age at which desire and suffering are sometimes confused. By skilfully mixing realism and poetry, by prioritizing looks, gestures and the atmosphere of dialogue, playing on innuendo and detail in order to move the plot forward without ever groping at illusory dramatics, the director also reveals two young and promising actresses: the charismatic Julija Steponaitytė as the lead and Aistė Diržiūtė (2015 Shooting Star of the European Film Promotion).

"You get the feeling that your heart is going to explode, and then everything disappears. There’s no more heaviness, you rise up, and you disappear." That’s undoubtedly what Sangaile dreams of while at the aerobatics show that provides a spectacular opening for the film. On her summer holidays in her wealthy parents’ country home (with whom communication is severely limited), the young girl from Vilnius is a solitary character who hides the pain that will emerge when her relationship with the fun, creative and rather wild Aistė develops. Aiste lives in the area (in a much more modest social milieu) and brings about their chance meeting. She brings Sangaile along to parties with her friends by the lake and acts as a kind of agent of change, a blazing star that comes out of nowhere to thaw the cold nature of her friend and soon-to-be lover, a fantastic attraction that will help Sangaile to free herself from her self-destructive inhibitions and to attempt to overcome her psychological and physical (in the sky where she nonetheless wants to be) vertigo/fear (of life).

By delicately weaving a tale without ever forcing a muted storyline, The Summer of Sangaile reveals all of Alanté Kavaïté’s directing skill. By using suggestive settings (a lake surrounded by a power station, a small aero club, a villa by the forest, fields, a road overhung by masts, etc.), the director deftly plays with the resources of light (helped byDominique Colin for photography) and music (by Jean-Benoît Dunckel, member of the famous group Air) to create hypnotic environments to the point of an entirely dreamlike scene. Occasionally filmed in close-up and always with a fixed camera, The Summer of Sangailedeftly captures the emotions of adolescence in which the slightest change can bring about powerful feelings. Bathed in an almost choreographic sensuality, the movie offers a keen observation of these two 17-year-old teens carried along by the dynamic of life, all while offering the luxury of captivating aerobatics scenes. Spiral dives and barrel rolls in the sky reflect the controlled skill that makes us think of a director whosevery human auteur cinema is not without its visual ambition. information