Five Days One Summer Film Details
Overview: Sir Sean Connery stars in Fred Zinnemann’s haunting tale of incestuous love set against a magnificent background of the Swiss Alps.
Tagline: An obsession, a love, a memory.
Review: Fred Zinnemann, a thoughtful and intellectual man whom I knew well over the course of a couple of years, was apparently haunted by the short story ‘Maiden Maiden’ by Kay Boyle over a period of decades. ‘The Maiden’ is the name of a peak in the Swiss Alps, where the story is set, and where a tragedy occurs. Fred was definitely a brooder, though not a depressive one. He would spend years thinking about something before doing it. Another story which obsessed him was the novel MAN’S FATE by André Malraux. After some decades he was just about to commence filming it in the 1970s (or perhaps had already started, I forget which), a very expensive production, when MGM closed it down without warning and tried to land him with the bills for millions of dollars. Fred told me that if he had not been a fairly rich man, able to fight MGM in court (where he won), the disaster would have bankrupted him and destroyed his career entirely. So I know all about Fred chewing over a story that had got into his head and which he could not get out of his head. This film was Fred’s last, made when he was 75 years old, his very last chance to ‘get that story out of his system’. If you want to see the film on DVD, there is a copy of the Spanish language release on sale on Amazon at the moment for $934.98. A snip at the price? There is another for sale at $959.00 if you don’t want the cheap version. I went for the much cheaper option and ordered the old video tape. Alas, I did this twice without realizing it, and seem to have bought the last two videos of this film for sale anywhere. So I have a spare if anyone is desperate. I don’t know how Fred at the age of 75 was able to make this challenging film, so much of which is shot on the peaks of the Alps and on slopes of sheer ice, in deep gorges, and on the edges of precipitous cliffs. Even a young man in his twenties would have required incredible stamina and courage. Many second unit cinematographers and a second unit director were employed to get the more terrifyingly dangerous shots. But nevertheless, this film is the most graphic and realistic film ever made about real mountain climbing, and much of it required serious directorial control over the performances in the most perilous climbing situations. It is actually scary to watch, and one’s heart is not just in one’s mouth, it is lying on the floor in front of you. I defy any normal person (by which I mean someone who is not a mad adventurer) to watch this film and not be nervous. People with vertigo could not survive it. I have never seen such extreme realism about mountain climbing on film. Fred routinely includes closeups of the gear, so that we can see the clips and picks and rope loops as if we are really there handling them. This helps us understand how it all works. Sean Connery is the star. He plays an older man who is having an affair with his young niece, played by Betsy Brantley in her first film role. She was perfect casting, because she had that dreamy, haunted, melancholy look of an unstable beautiful woman, and her character is indeed a manic depressive. The film has a great deal of silence and very little music on the soundtrack. This heightens the tension and the realism. Fred was trying to stress the extreme silence of the high mountains, where one rises high above the elements and the sound and fury of daily life into a realm where noise does not intrude, except, that is, for the noise of a rockfall or of a pick striking into the ice. There are emotional tensions, incestuous passions, and a sense of imminent doom about the story. The film is highly unusual, a genuine connoisseur’s piece.
Language: English, German, French
Duration: 108 min
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