Now we see Ingmar Bergman feeling like he’s hitting his stride.
Summer Interlude, Bergman’s ninth film, is where everything seems to be coming together. Looking back at some contemporary comments, Bergman was actually more concerned with improving the technical aspects of his films than narrative. The issues that he talks about tend to matter less to me (sound synch problems and such), but I can entirely understand a craftsman being upset at the sight of potentially unforced little errors that can take a viewer out of a picture. However, from the selection I’ve seen of Bergman’s early films, my problem was that he hadn’t really grasped storytelling as well as other aspects of the filmmaking process. Endings weren’t supported by stronger openings (To Joy) or the films were hopelessly lost in convention (Crisis). He did have A Ship to India which, I think, straddled the line between simple morality play and interesting story with characters fairly well.
Common amongst these earlier films, Summer Interlude has a flashback structure that watches the main character, Marie, a ballerina, take a break from work due to technical issues and journey impulsively to the small island where she had a summer fling with a boy Henrik. They fell in love as two young people with no cares in the middle of summer do. They have their ups and their downs. With three days left in the summer, they promise an engagement with grass rings and playful vows before an accident that claims Henrik’s life. Marie then, at the advice of her lecherous uncle (her mother’s sister’s husband), closes herself off from the world.
Thirteen years pass, and Marie takes her trip to the island. She has a beau that she’s never really connected to, but decides that she must get to know him and he her, so she gives him Henrik’s journal (which prompted the trip to begin with).
Anyway, the movie works really well, and it’s because of its focus on its two main characters, Marie and Henrik. The love they share is both very innocent and believable. They have both highs and lows. They have both good times and bad. Maybe the love wouldn’t have lasted beyond the summer even without Henrik’s death, for the love felt as effervescent and passing as the season itself. What Bergman shows is a view of innocence, preserved in memory, and untouched by Marie since. It’s a surprisingly touching journey as Marie uses her trip to the island to confront the memory she had suppressed for so long and then return to the world, more open and ready to actually connect with it again.
There is one technical thing that I have to mention, because I’ve seen it so much in these early Bergman films. For whatever reason (I’m assuming limitations around lighting), they filmed outdoor night scenes in the middle of the day without any extra filters to imply darkness. It looks like the middle of the day, and then characters will talk about how it’s nighttime. I wouldn’t bring it up, except that it happened in almost every one of Bergman’s early films I’ve seen so far. It reminds me of Shakespeare plays in the Globe with actors carrying around unlit lanterns to indicate night.
Still, the movie is one of Bergman’s earliest triumphs. It’s a gentle and quiet film that evokes lost youth and innocence in such a tender and tragic way. It’s a wonderful little film.
Netflix Rating: 5/5
Quality Rating: 3.5/4