Wednesday, January 18, 2012

298. Sommarnattens leende/Smiles of a Summer Night (1955)

Running Time: 108 minutes
Directed By: Ingmar Bergman
Written By: Ingmar Bergman
Main Cast: Gunnar Bjornstrand, Eva Dahlbeck, Ulla Jacobsson, Jarl Kulle, Margit Carlqvist


Once again, before I begin this review, I just want to thank everyone who took a minute to read my TOP 20. I've reached a milestone that I'm very proud of and I'm excited to begin "The Road to 500". I look forward to twenty more movies worthy of the next list and this is where it all begins. However, I don't think "Smiles of a Summer Night" will be one of them.

The film presents us with a love hexagon, of sorts, as a group of different characters look to figure out their current relationship status. First up there's Fredrik Egerman (Bjornstrand), an aging attorney, who is married to 19-year-old Anne (Jacobsson). Fredrik is very aware of the age gap between he and his young bride and is the jealous type. In fact, he's even wary of his own son, Henrik (from a previous marriage), who lives with him and is around Anne's age. In the past, Fredrik had a mistress, actress Desiree Armfeldt (Dahlbeck) and when the Egerman's go to see her new play, Anne insists that they leave midway through, uncomfortable about something. Fredrik doesn't think Anne knew about his affair with Desiree, but when he meets up with Desiree later, he realizes that she might know something. Then there's Count Carl Magnus Malcolm (Kulle), Desiree's current lover and he's also married. Oh and let's not forget about Fredrik's maid, Petra, who gets her kicks teasing Henrik (who is a priest), flashing her cleavage at him and being generally frisky. After her meeting with Fredrik, Desiree realizes that she wants him back and devises a scheme to get everyone into their own, content relationships, so that she and Fredrik can be together. It all is to take place at the country home of the elder Mrs. Armfeldt, where all the couples are invited for a weekend, including Henrik and Petra.

WHEW! If that didn't confuse you, I don't know what will. Actually the plot isn't as confusing as it sounds and the writing is good enough to keep everything sorted out, without the plot tripping over itself and becoming jumbled. In fact, each relationship/situation is given time to be told and by the time we actually get to the country house, Bergman has spent an hour establishing everyone's circumstances. Actually, I think the film could have benefited greatly if Berman could have told the story of the six primary characters in half the time and got us to the country house with time to spare. That way, the film really could have flourished as all these couples interacted during a weekend getaway and I think it would have been a much more enjoyable film. However, as it was, I just didn't take to it as much as I had hoped to. The dialogue was really great, which surprised me for some reason, probably because I knew it was a comedy and I don't think of great dialogue when I hear the word "comedy".

In fact, I'm not entirely sure why I didn't take to this film more than I did. I think ultimately I just didn't care enough about the characters or their situations. The acting was fine, the story was, for the most part, intricate and well organized and, as I mentioned, the dialogue was a breath of fresh air. In the end, however, it just didn't do a lot for me and I really wanted to get "Bergman Week" kicked off with more of a bang than this.

Also, before I wrap this review I just want to make a quick note about my familiarity with Ingmar Bergman. I have seen exactly four Bergman films, prior to my viewing of "Smiles of a Summer Night". The very first Bergman film I ever saw was "Scenes from a Marriage", which I immediately fell in love with and have subsequently purchased and rewatched. I think it's ONE OF the greatest films I've ever seen, with two of the BEST performances I've ever seen and I've often cited that Liv Ullmann's performance in "Scenes" was one of the best performances I've ever witnessed from an actress. So, just to set the record straight, I'm not immune to Ingmar Bergman and he has at least one film that I'd put high on my personal list of favorites.

RATING: 6/10 Not terrible, by any means, but still not what I was looking for. Oh well, Bergman gets nine more chances to impress, so I won't worry just yet. Next up: "The Seventh Seal" (FYI - I've seen "The Seventh Seal" before and I wasn't impressed).


January 18, 2012 5:28pm


  1. Ah, Mr. Bergman.. welcome! And sadly a dissapointing one for you.
    But 'Smiles of...' is not really typical is it? I did actually enjoy this.. but I'm not really sure why. Thing is, if it had been in English, colour and staring (say) Jerry lewis, I'd have hated it. As you point out, a lot of the laughs rely on rather poor taste 'flashing of cleavage', infidelity being played for laughs, stage farce ideas (people rushing in and out of rooms by different doors) etc. Dare I suspect that it was just because it was from the great Mr. B that i stuck with it?
    Well, in a way yes. The dialog IS superior to your typical sex comedy, so is the story and the idea behind it.
    So, are you getting the ones you feel may be substandard out the way first with 7th seal coming up next?

  2. No I'll be moving chronologically through the ones that appear in the book. Actually, if you want to know the exact order that I'll be watching the Bergman films in - they'll be watched in the same order that I posted the movie posters in, the "Bergman Week - Coming Soon" posters, i mean.

  3. Ah! I see.. sort of returning to your original chronology idea.. seeing how he progresses eh?
    I really hope things improve for you..


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