Directed by Pablo Fuentes Starring Jackson Milner, Bettine Mackenzie, Isobel Hughes, Andrew Gourlay, Jude Monk McGowan, Geoff Arnold, Regé-Jean Page, Jacob Shephard, David Burnett, Theo Green. Short Film Review by Lorenzo Lombardi
From 1988-89, there was a raving scene in England. It celebrated the rise of acid house, a newly-emerged subgenre of EDM, as well as a rapid increase in ecstasy and LSD. It was called the Second Summer of Love, and this short film of the same name serves as an entrancing visual poem of the bombastic scene.
Aside from the heavy focus on the subject matter, there is a plot which follows a group of pre-skinheads attempting to join the scene by extortion and violence. This amounts to growing tension as their behaviour turns more and more unpredictable, which makes for some intense but ultimately forgettable melodrama.
The short’s visual style is, on the other hand, eye candy. With an Academy-styled ratio, it stands out to an extent. Imagine Grand Budapest Hotel without the wide colour pallet and perfectly aligned shots. But this is not an insult to the short. Its primary use of white, shot exclusively indoors, is wonderful to look at. Rooms are full of haze and the colour of the walls are paralleling the smoke. Maybe this was supposed to pertain to the famed acid house album The White Room, which revolved around the titular place as a means to contact ‘eternity’. This gives the short a consistent feel and a stylish identity.
Although the plot is clearly not a highlight, it raises an interesting contradictory statement of that time in the late ‘80s. The period was described as a ‘summer of love’, and yet the story revolves around a group that commit things that are the complete opposite of love. What is conveyed instead is both the impact of hatred on everyone involved and the toll of the drugs’ elevated effects.
Those effects, of which, are psychologically implemented to a tee. Expressionistic sounds are used to immerse the viewer in the characters’ state of mind - the paranoid, heightened-but-distorted type. As an effective result, the film invokes a sickening and disorientating effect, but in a good way because it allows the viewer to empathise with the characters.
Second Summer of Love is ultimately a piece of style over substance. It may have some believable acting (most of the actors employed character analysis methods), but plot threads go nowhere. Primarily, it is both a love letter to the acid house scene and a representation of the reality after the partying and induced psychedelia. Amid all its good points, one thing’s for certain - you will surely be spacing out to Second Summer of Love’s mesmerizing visuals.