Friday, June 08, 2007


An uncharacteristically light Ingmar Bergman film, pretty much the polar opposite of one of his more typical "heavier" films (like WINTER LIGHT). This was turned into a Stephen Sondheim musical (A Little Night Music) and it served as a direct model for Woody Allen's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S SEX COMEDY. It's a frisky romantic roundabout in which all the mismatched partners eventually find happiness. Fredrik (Gunnar Bjornstrand) takes his very young wife Anna (Ulla Jacobsson) to the theater to see famed actress Desiree (Eva Dahlbeck), who also happens to be Fredrik's former mistress (and whose name he blurted out earlier during an unsuccessful bout of lovemaking with Anna, who is still a virgin after 2 years of marriage). Henrik, Fredrik's mopey son from a previous marriage (Bjorn Bjelvenstam) who is half-heartedly studying for the clergy, clearly has a thing for Anna but isn't above a little dallying with the maid (Harriet Andersson). Fredrik visits Desiree after the show and as they reminisce and bicker about old days (Fredrik discovers that Desiree's young son may be his), her current lover, the martinet Count Malcolm (Jarl Kulle) arrives and threatens to instigate a duel, no matter that Malcolm is himself married. Desiree gets her mother to invite the whole bunch to a weekend house party at which they are all served wine supposedly spiked with "breast milk and stallion seed" which apparently serves as a kind of honesty/love potion. Through the night, the unsettled couples go through a series of incidents which has the effect of getting everyone settled again, albeit in different combinations than those in which they arrived. The film is rarely laugh-out-loud funny, and indeed touches on serious adult relationship issues, but it is amusing and even whimsical. There are some notable one-liners, or as close as Bergman gets to giving us one-liners. When Desiree is catching up with Fredrik, she tells him, "I’ve been 29 for three years which is nothing for a woman of my age." Irritated with Fredrik's apparent placidity, she yells, "I wish just once you'd shatter to the core, so much so that not a fart was left." Later, the pompous Count Malcolm announces to Fredrik, "I can tolerate my wife's infidelity, but if anyone touches my mistress, I become a tiger." The black and white cinematography is lovely, especially in depicting the long bright summer Swedish night which serves as the backdrop for the last half of the film. [DVD]


Roscoe said...

Does Fredrik blurt out Desiree's name during an unsuccessful bout of lovemaking? I seem to remember he said it in his sleep, while taking a nap with Anne before going to the theatre.

I like SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT a lot, but haven't seen it in a long time. I should revisit it.

Michael said...

As I recall, the two make a half-hearted stab at making love in the afternoon, and he says Desiree's name just before the attempt ends and he falls asleep. But it's possible I'm misremembering.