"An Unforgettable Summer" takes place in 1925 in Eastern Romanian. The land use to belong to the Bulgarians. Now it doesn't. And in the course of the future it will switch hands again and again.
Capt. Petre Dumitriu (Claudiu Bleont) is sent to a dangerous Bulgarian/Romanian border after his wife, Marie-Therese Von Debretsy (Kristin Scott Thomas) does not accept the advances for Petre's commanding officier.
The couple, along with their children, try to adapt to this new setting. Petre repeatedly tells his wife, they will not be staying there long. But it's not a safe place to be. Danger lurks around every corner.
Soon, the unavoidable happens. Eight Romanian soldiers are killed. Several Bulgarians are captured and Petre is told he is going to have to give the order to have the men executed. This though comes as a shock to the couple. Especially after Marie spends time with the men and a relationship forms between them.
The film was directed by Lucian Pintilie and based on the novel La Salade written by Petru Dumitriu. Now the movie never states whether or not this was based on a true story, but, I have a hunch it doesn't matter. This may not have been based on a particular story, but, events such as these must have taken place at one time or another.
I'm someone who firmly believes movies can exist as insights into society. When we watch movies from past decades, they tell us something about the world. Movies are a reflection of the times. They either endorse social morals and values or attempt to challenge them. Movies are rarely made that do not serve a purpose. Nearly all movies are about something. They exist to inform us.
Keeping this in mind then, lets try and figure out what "An Unforgettable Summer" is really trying to tell us. Lets think back to the early '90s. What was going on in eastern Europe at that time? The "ethnic cleansing" and decline of the former Yugoslavia! "An Unforgettable Summer" is using another historical time in history, when people were merely hated for being different, and compare it to a more contemporary event.
One of the underlying themes of the film, is hatred for "the other". Many of the Romanians hate Petre's wife because she is half Hungarian. The Romanian army of course hates the Bulgarians. People simply hate one another because they are different.
Pintilie's films usually have a political bent. Much of his work involves Romania's rule under Communism. "Terminus paradis" is one film to check out. Here with "An Unforgettable Summer" Pintilie is making a strong social commentary. Now if only more people would watch the film and take to heart it's message you might begin to realize the power of movies.
Bottom-line: Lucian Pintilie's film makes a powerful social commentary dealing with a regrettable time in recent history. The performances are strong and convincing and carry a lot of emotional weight.