SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT
Review by Michael Jacobson
Ulla Jacobsson, Eva Dahlbeck, Harriet Andersson, Margi Carlqvist, Gunnar
Bjornstrand, Jarl Kulle, Ake Fridell, Bjorn Bjelvenstam, Naima Wifstrand 3, 2011
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Features: See Review
Length: 108 Minutes
Release Date: May
could a woman ever love a man?”
woman’s view is seldom based on aesthetics.
And one can always turn out the light.”
didn’t begin as a banner year for Ingmar Bergman. His marriage was ending, his career was in jeopardy after
making two box office disappointments in a row, and his health was troubling him
(he had psychosomatic stomach pains and had lost a lot of weight).
It was hardly the ideal scenario from which to pen a comedy.
if you believe the Mel Brooks’ line that comedy is born from pain, perhaps it
isn’t too big a stretch to accept that Bergman wrote and directed Smiles of
a Summer Night, an absolutely charming and whimsical romantic comedy that
not only won the hearts of audiences everywhere, it provided a happy ending to
his own personal drama with its big win at the Cannes Film Festival, which
allowed Bergman his first foray into international success and acclaim.
It was a comfortable place for him, because he never really left it
was a film that showcased an entirely different side of Bergman:
his humor. It may have been
apparent here and there throughout his career, but for modern audiences, it
might be a bit of culture shock to consider a picture like this from the man who
gave us the brooding existentialism of The Seventh Seal, the somber
treatises of faith in his religious themed trilogy, or the introspection of Wild
Strawberries. The craftsmanship
was still apparent, but the tone was disarmingly light, as his script hearkened
to the best of Oscar Wilde and Moliere, but still managed to sound distinctly
it a chamber comedy or a bedroom farce, if you will…it’s the story of four
men and four women who are mismatched in their romantic pursuits.
Bergman pairs them off in terrific enlightening scenes that clearly
demonstrate who should be with who, then brings them all together in a clever
and possibly magical way so that they can discover this for themselves.
Egerman (the always reliable Bjornstrand) is a lawyer and a widower, who took
the extremely young Anne (Jacobsson) for a second bride, but perhaps sooner than
he was ready to…they never even consummated their marriage.
He has a young son Henrik (Bjelvenstram), a melancholy lad unsure of his
own heart. Though he’s preparing
to enter the clergy, it seems as though he’d be a better match for Anne than
Fredrik still carries a flame for his old lover, actress Desiree Armfeldt (Dahlbeck).
They seem like a good couple who never really solidified owing to
circumstances. He visits her in the
middle of the night, but ends up in an awkward situation when her current beau
Carl-Magnus Malcolm (Kulle) also arrives. How
Fredrik ends up leaving the situation in Malcolm’s nightshirt I’ll leave for
you to discover.
characters are all plagued by misplaced affections and insecurities…but hey,
this is a comedy, remember? When
Desiree’s mother (Wifstrand) invites all to her house for a stay, it becomes
the perfect situation for all the right people to end up together, including
Malcolm rediscovering love with his wife Charlotte (Carlqvist), and even a
couple of domestics getting in on the romantic action with an all night romp in
is the kind of simple, sunny comedy that just makes you smile from start to
finish. It finds pleasures in
simple words and actions, but while Bergman charms you with his wit, he also
warms you with his delightfully cynical take on human nature. We can see ourselves in these people, and that’s why their
trials, tribulations, and ultimate triumphs are so satisfying.
wouldn’t always be a mainstay in Bergman’s career, but this 1955 gem
survives as a testimony to the fact that there was more than one side to the
auteur, and that one of cinema’s most prolific creative minds had a wonderful
sense of humor as well.
This Blu-ray offering from Criterion offers some improvements over the previous standard definition offering. Because of the age of the film, there's still some noticeable spots and scars on the print from time to time, and they tend to show up worse in the darker scenes. Lighter scenes, however, are quite beautiful, and the 1080p transfer really offers the kind of sharp, crisp contrast you like to see in a good black and white movie.
The uncompressed audio sounds quite clean and clear given the picture's age. The film is mostly driven by dialogue with a little music, so dynamic range is not present nor really required, but still an enjoyable listen.
Bergman himself offers a few thoughts on the movie by way of introduction…nice
touch! There is also an interesting
conversation on the film between historian Peter Cowie and Bergman collaborator
Jorn Donner. Rounding out is the
original Swedish trailer and a booklet containing essays by Pauline Kael and
Smiles of a Summer Night is a wonderfully effervescent comedy lovingly crafted by the inimitable Ingmar Bergman. This one is a must see for all serious cinema lovers…I only hope we'll see much, much more of Bergman on Blu-ray from the loving hands at Criterion.