FIVE DAYS ONE SUMMER is a heartfelt valentine from director Fred Zinnemann to a bittersweet short story that had haunted him for almost forty years. Ironically, the tale he had waited so long to tell was also his last, as the 75-year old vet ended a stellar 50-year career in defeat. The negative criticism he and the film received were not only unwarranted, they were needlessly nasty; as he related “…there was a degree of viciousness in the reviews. The pleasure some people took in tearing down the film really hurt.” Score another ‘victory’ in the ego-war against those with talent by those with zip. Compounding the stings from snide key-heroes was the catastrophic box-office: a crushingly tiny US take of $200,000 against a cost of $15,000,000. Sad, and undeserved.
Personalized as opposed to manufactured, it’s a love story that is subdued and unhurried, eschewing the typical melodramatic goop too often spoon-fed mass audiences. You may find this a quiet surprise, a reward that stays with you some days afterward.
The Swiss Alps: 1932. A middle-aged physician from Scotland (Sean Connery) vacations with a much younger woman (Kate Brantley), presumed to be his wife. Their mountain climbing retreat, seeking solitude as much as altitude, takes a turn into melancholic reflection and psychological torment when she turns out to be his niece, and is pursued by a guide (Lambert Wilson), who senses there is more (and less) to the relationship than is presumed. Seeds of a triangle are sown.
Connery was a star manly enough to play his age, and he’s typically faultless here, while newcomers Brantley and Wilson are both effective. The scenic values of Alpine meadows, crags, villages and snowfields are wondrous, captured by Giuseppe Rotunno’s camera. Elmer Bernstein’s scoring is as fresh and delicate as the story and settings. Memorable sequence has a body discovered frozen in the ice, preserved over decades: the now-aged bride of the dead man confronts her lost mate from the past.
108 minutes, with Jennifer Hilary, Gerard Buhr, Isabel Dean, Anna Massey.