A COLD SUMMER NIGHT
reviewed by: PRINDIE Senior Programmer ALEX KIM
Halfway into A Cold Summer Night, here are some of the things we know about Ketan, its protagonist:
1. That, on the film’s titular night, he is sleeping with a woman.
2. That that woman is not his wife.
3. That his wife, who is away, is currently pregnant for the second time—their would-have-been first child was lost in a miscarriage.
All of which adds up to us not having much sympathy for Ketan when his affair is discovered by the family from whom he rents his apartment. They kick him out. As he is gathering his things to leave, we watch a conversation unfold amongst the building’s other tenants. He did a bad thing. We nod our heads in agreement. It’s horribly unfair to his pregnant wife. Again, we nod our heads. And then one of the women says this: “We shouldn’t allow any more migrants in here.”
The film sneaks this in carefully, quickly. It’s a blink-and-you-miss-it moment. But two big things happen because of it. The first is that we’re made to wonder: what’s really driving Ketan’s ejection, in the minds of these other tenants? And the second is that we’re made to think: am I, with the mistakes I’ve made in my own life, really in a position to be judging Ketan? Or do I have—if not these tenants’ xenophobia—fears or insecurities of my own, insecurities that in some ways drove my attitude towards him, and my willing participation in his exile? The film opens with a shot of people seen through an open window. On the one hand, yes, it can be read as the point of view of an outsider, as Ketan is an outsider. But it might also be read as the distance that we willingly put between ourselves and others, the better to judge those others with, and to feel comparatively, if secretly, superior.
If we’re given an excuse to air those less charming qualities of our own—a space or situation where they’re socially acceptable, as when a person we never liked cheats on his wife, and we now have a tangible excuse to kick him out—how readily do we jump on those opportunities? The film is about this and more. It is about rumors, too, some of which, if true, complicate some of the feelings discussed in this review still further. A Cold Summer Night asks hard and uncomfortable questions. The summer is, indeed, cold, and the chill is coming from our own hearts.