Hailed by Ken Russell himself as the best film he ever made, for the BBC or otherwise, Song of Summer sure arrives with raised expectations. This is the third of Russell’s BBC productions I’ve seen now and it is probably his most accomplished technically and in terms of story.
The film takes place during the famed composer Frederick Delius’ last years of life, while he was blind and paralysed. A young composer, Eric Fenby, moves in with Delius to help archive his life’s work and to assist Delius in composing new pieces. Russell’s approach here is less expressionistic and experimental than in Elgar and The Debussy Film, instead he tells a very sweet and moving story about creativity, friendship and art itself. The music is, as always, at the forefront, and Russell’s passion for the material is clearly felt. There’s a sense that with this one, Russell wanted to get out of the way of the story and just tell it in the best way he knew how.
Unlike the other two Russell BBC productions I’ve seen, this one isn’t clinical, at a distance or shrouded by aesthetic and style. It’s the most narrative driven of the three and character based. Therefore, you become involved with these people and find yourself caring about them. It’s a pretty moving little film that shows a softer, more heartfelt side to Russell’s often aggressive sensibility. I liked it a lot.