Smiles of a Summer Night was the first film by Ingmar Bergman to bring him international success, launching his career and the careers of many of his regular players that appear in the film, including Gunnar Bjornstrand and Harriet Andersson. The plot this time is inspired (quite heavily) by A Midsummer Night’s Dream (one of my personal favorite Shakespeare plays); two pairs of couples, in a night of fervent intoxication, decide to swap partners and see what happens.
The film is much more grounded in plot than the rest of Bergman’s films to follow. Otherwise, the film contains much of what Bergman would later develop into his methodology; stark, crisp black and white cinematography, a noticeable lack of sound aside from the dialogue and a few sparse effects, and a core group of characters each with their own developed personalities and characterizations that forms the core of the product. Where this one differs is the style; Bergman was not known for his comedies, mainly because he dabbled in the genre so rarely, and yet you wouldn’t think of it watching this film of his; it fits into his body of work very well for such an oddity of a Bergman film. Even still, it is an oddity indeed; it almost seems like a low-key Hollywood rom-com of the 40s than an Ingmar Bergman film, albeit one with a decidedly more mature and subtle bent to it than a rom-com would picture.
The little touches, such as the acting and the script, belie the realism of the film, and when I really paid attention to it my suspension of disbelief dropped a smidgen, but seeing as it is technically a period piece, I can let it slide. Bergman is always a treat to watch, and this one in particular felt like an extra special one because of how unusual it was. This is definitely going to be an experience if you’re expecting just another Bergman film, and as far as experiences go, you could do a lot worse than a Bergman film inspired by a Shakespeare play. This is surely another fine Bergman to add to your repertoire.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10