Smiles of a Summer Night (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
The Criterion Collection
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After fifteen films that received mostly local acclaim, the 1955 comedy Smiles of a Summer Night (Sommarnattens leende) at last ushered in an international audience for Ingmar Bergman (The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries). In turn-of-the-century Sweden, four men and four women of different classes attempt to navigate the laws of attraction. During a weekend in the country, the women collude to force the men’s hands in matters of the heart, exposing their pretensions and insecurities along the way. Chock-full of flirtatious propositions and sharp witticisms delivered by such Swedish screen legends as Gunnar Björnstrand (The Seventh Seal, Winter Light) and Harriet Andersson (Through a Glass Darkly, Cries and Whispers), Smiles of a Summer Night is one of cinema’s great erotic comedies.
Video introduction to the film by director Ingmar Bergman
Video conversation between Bergman scholar Peter Cowie and writer Jörn Donner, executive producer of Fanny and Alexander
Original theatrical trailer
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by theater and film critic John Simon and a 1961 review by film critic Pauline Kael
Top customer reviews
Gunnar Bjornstrand, Eva Dahlbeck, Ulla Jacobsson, Harriet Andersson, etc.
Here's a film that's fifty-eight years old now. It's shot entirely in black and white and has to be watched with subtitles, unless you're fluent in Swedish. To top it off, it's set in turn of the century Sweden, not the turn of this century but a century ago. Yet it brims with life, and is an absolute pleasure to watch.
It was crowned at Cannes in 1956 -Grand Prize for Best Comedy--and its success made Bergman as a director. Everyone in Sweden who was involved in films knew that Bergman was a genius but Sweden was a relatively insular community back then and all of Bergman's films had been too dark to win him an audience outside of his home country. His success at Cannes made Bergman a sellable commodity abroad and he used the leverage of his success to move on to a series of standout dramas. First was The Seventh Seal (1956). That was for most Americans the first movie seen of Bergman. It was after Seal and The Virgin Spring and Wild Strawberries that we noticed Bergman's earlier works.
Smiles of a Summer Night is a comedy. Comedy's not something one routinely associates with Bergman but actually, he's done a couple of good ones across his life as film director -The Devil's Eye in 1960 and his filming of Mozart's The Magic Flute in 1975. There is the often comic first half of Fanny and Alexander (1983). And when he does comedy, he does it as well as he does his more somber stuff. His eye for scenes is exquisite, he works well with actors (one of the best at this), and his comedies are at once playful, thoughtful and somewhere behind the laughter, elegiac and a little bit sad.
This movie is about a group of lovers and would-be lovers, mostly bourgeois, whose affections are ... elsewhere... than with their legitimate mates. Fredrik Egerman is late middle-aged and married to a nineteen-year-old child -they've been married fro two years and Anne's still virgin. Fredrik's son by his first marriage, Henrik, is studying to be a minister but lust for father's new wife is slowly but steadily beating out Martin Luther in his thoughts. Fredrik has a former mistress, an aging but still radiant stage actress named Desiree. Desiree's current is an army officer, Count Carl-Magnus. The Count's wife, Charlotte, is best friends with Anne. Fredrik, frustrated by his inability to consummate his marriage to his child-bride, goes out one night to see Desiree. He meets her at the theater, gores back to her apartment with her, but falls in a puddle and ends up dressed in a frilly nightshirt and a robe -both garments are the Count's. The Count shows up and the Great Dance begins: Fredrik and Anne and Henrik and Desiree and Carl-Magnus and Charlotte, until all end up with the mates they should have had in the beginning, and with the kinds of love they can tolerate. Around this dance is another, of the maid Petra and her lover, the coachman Frid, which is conducted with no reserve at all and a great deal more apparent pleasure. The contrast between the earthy Petra and Frid and their enervated and confused masters is a motif of the film.
There's a good deal of the feeling though not the storyline of A Midsummer's Night Dream in here and when you watch Woody Allen's homage to Bergman, A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, you'll recognize affinities.
What are the pleasures of this extraordinary movie? A sophisticated and civilized plot line that doesn't detract at all from the comedy. A steady pacing that allows you to savor each scene as it unfolds and doesn't try to shove it in your face as too many movies, especially comedies, do nowadays. Superb acting by an ensemble that even at that early stage in his career was shaping up as Bergman's film family. Bjornstrand and Dahlbeck especially deserve praise. The filming: in one of the two interviews that are packaged along with the film, a critic comments on the masterful use of light in the film -the dappling in the forest scenes, the flood of white in sky and field -he says that no movie has ever used white so well as this one. The sheer intelligence of the film. The dialogue, for instance, is so good --funny, revealing....
I haven't talked about the three smiles of the summer night. See the movie for those.
house. Lots of bed hopping, betrayal, male macho posturing, and female
Never for a second dull, but for me never quite rose to the heights of
Bergman's greatest works either.
Personally I found the Soundheim musical adaptation of this - 'A Little
Night Music' - more moving and human. There's something a bit distanced and
controlling about Bergman's approach which limits our chance to
empathize with these characters. I smiled a lot, but was left wanting
Sort of a fun one-night-stand of a film.
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Frequently compared to Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream", and the inspiration...Read more
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