I saw this wonderful movie, ‘Smiles of a Summer Night‘ last night. This period piece Ingmar Bergman comedy runs rampant with extremely clever and witty dialogue. It’s so cheeky! Probably one of the best romantic comedies I have seen. It is a happy and humourous film on the surface but it reaches very dark places with surprising force. The film’s plot—which involves switching partners on a summer night—has been adapted many times, arguably most notably as Woody Allen’s film A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982).
As an astute movie critic put it, ‘Among other things, the film is about acting, the theatre of life, the masks and costumes we wear and the lies we tell ourselves and others. Then they drink the wine and in vino veritas, the masks fall and madness ensues.’
Another critic put it:
“Smiles of a Summer Night” is a pretty edgy film, touching with great candor subject matters somewhat taboo today. And the film does this while being a complete joy to watch. This is certainly one of the great sex comedies and certain to be a good introduction to Bergman for those concerned about some of his tougher films. ”
I love how Bergman delves so delicately into the emotional intelligence and sexuality of the women. Retribution and humiliation galore in this film. Men, as a gender, do not come off well in Bergman’s charming sex comedy. The women on the other hand are stronger, more self-reflective, capable of pandering to the male ego and to direct their affections elsewhere when the need arises.We laugh at the histrionics but all the while see the dark side of ourselves.
The key themes of the film is ‘Love’ and ‘Youth’. There is some great dialogue in the scene below about how Love is almost a thing of the past, an experience associated with innocence, virginity and youth and the older one gets, the pursuit of Love ( a ‘young lover’s’ ideal) only brings about desperation, frustration and ultimately despair.
PETRA: Why have I never been a young lover? Can you tell me that?
FRID: There are only a very few young lovers on this earth. Yes, one can almost count them. Love has smitten them both as a gift and as a punishment.
We invoke love, call out for it, beg for it, cry for it, try to imitate it, think that we have it, lie about it.
PETRA: But we don’t have it.
FRID: No, my sugar plum. The love of lovers is denied to us. We don’t have the gift.
PETRA: Nor the punishment.
See the full transcript here, which explains the 3 smiles of the summer night.
Ingmar Bergman never ceases to amaze me. Essential Bergman film, it most definitely is! I have to see it again and again to know if it is one of my favourite Bergman films. There is just so much great competition, such as Winter Light, Wild Strawberries and Persona amongst others. I’d love to know where this film stands amongst your favourite Bergman movies.
Once you have seen the film you may want to check out the always fabulous and hugely informative Breaking Down Bergman series film review of ‘Smiles of a Summer Night’.