â€œWhy is youth so terribly unmerciful and who has given it leave to be that way?â€�An uncomfortable question posed by Desireeâ€™s mother nestles at the heart of this excellent cocktail of scenes centred around love and the desire for it and the mismatches and misunderstandings that ensue.This is a beautifully castand written film,full of bon mots and witticisms,cynical verve and youthful zest. This is one of the trio of masterly films in 1950s by Bergman-Smiles of a Summerâ€™s Night(â€˜55) The Seventh Seal(â€™56) and Wild Strawberries(â€™57)-where Bergman established his international reputation and complete creative freedom. From scene to scene the film zips along as if in a Mozartian opera or grand waltz. Yet the cinematography shows every scene to be beautifully framed as if they are pictures in a gallery.The female characters, Desiree,her mother, Charlotte(the Countâ€™s wife),the maid Petra, seem to run proceedings as if they are ultimately pulling the strings of the male puppets, due to their innate wisdom about affairs of the heart. Egerman (Bjornstrand) is a pompous lawyer married to a too young wife ,Anne, still a virgin 3 years after marriage. His son, Henrik, a theology student, is secretly in love with his mother-in-law Anne and makes eyes at her.He also practises on Petra(Harriet Anderson) a perky,flirty, buxom maid, kissing her when he can. Egerman has lustful longings for his former mistress Desiree and meets up with her at the theatre and later her home which is where she also sees her lover the militaristic Count Malcolm. â€œ Love is like a juggler,keeping aloft 3 spheres, heart,word and bodyâ€�,Desiree,the actress declares in a play. Egerman and the Count meet, Egerman dressed in the Countâ€™s gown and night clothes due to falling comically in a puddle.The count makes him leave. Desiree asks her mother to invite all the couples to a summer meal and stayover at her estate so she can resolve a few things. Henrik, the son, is invited too. Desiree and Charlotte discuss a plan by which Desiree can get Egerman back through Charlotte seducing Egerman and making the Count jealous. There are secret beds, an attempted hanging, Russian Roulette,secret trysts in the garden,youthful kisses,elopements, magic wine with devastating effects, and lower stairs love romps in the hay while watching the â€˜smiles of a summerâ€™s nightâ€™.Bergman was to sound out deeper themes later on but he has never been better, more light hearted and frolicsome,
Smiles of a Summer Night
Time Out saysBergman's first major success, inspiration for both Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music and Woody Allen's A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, this enchanting comedy of manners assembles a team of couples, ex-couples and would-be couples, and puts them through their paces in a game of love at a country house party during one heady midsummer weekend in 1900. Ruthless towards its characters' amorous pretensions, but extending a kind of ironic tenderness when they get hoist with their own petards, it is a wonderfully funny, genuinely erotic, and quite superbly acted rondo of love. Dig too deeply and it disintegrates, but its facade - decked out in elegant turn-of-the-century settings and costumes - has a magical, shimmering beauty.