1952. Bergman was past his studio phase, but he hadn’t quite hit the point in his career where he was “Bergman”, art house darling. He was writing almost everything he directed at this point, but no one outside of Sweden knew he existed, and even in Sweden he wasn’t that famous or even financially successful. It was in this period that he made Waiting Women, an interesting and mostly successful little movie about four women who are, well, waiting.
It’s a summer day in Sweden and the wives of four brothers are at a summer cottage corralling their children to bed and finding a way to spend the final few hours before the brothers return from weeks away. They decide that in order to foster a certain type of sisterhood, they should share their experiences in love with each other. The first is Annette, the oldest of them, who insists that there’s nothing to share about her relationship with her husband, Paul. The second is Rakel, wife to Eugen, who talks about how she had an affair with another man, admitted it to Eugen immediately afterwards and, in the throws of Eugen’s depression that immediately hit, she changed her view of their relationship to one more matronly than it had been previously.
The third is Marta, the youngest of the four who tell the stories. Hers is the longest and most interesting structurally and narratively (even though I’m not sure it entirely works). We see her with an American serviceman in postwar Paris, but they have a fight and she ends up spending the night with her neighbor, a Swedish painter (and the third brother). They conceive a child, but she doesn’t tell him before he goes back to Sweden for his father’s funeral. She has her baby alone, and the extended scene (which is also a framing device around the time in Paris) focuses on her isolation and makes it palpable. However, I feel like there is simply too much confusion and too many questions left unaddressed, much less answered, in this portion to make it completely successful, even though it is, at a minimum, interesting.
The fourth is the lightest and easiest of the stories. Karin is married to Frederik, and they return from an event at the family company. Frederik is very smug about his position in life, considering himself the most successful of the four brothers. The pair get trapped in the elevator to their apartment and things devolve. First, visually through Frederik’s top hot getting squashed, then through Karin’s verbal trickery that gets Frederik to admit to a string of affairs. Karin doesn’t seem to mind that much, though. The implication is that they’ve been married too long for it to matter, as long as they hold their home together.
Through all of these stories, there is a fifth woman, Maj, much younger and engaged to the fifth brother, Henrik. She scoffs at everyone’s story, essentially telling them that they don’t know love and that they love incorrectly. She’s the picture of youth that way. Adding her in, and we see that Bergman has portrayed love in five different stages of maturity. From the earliest (Maj) that is concerned most with passion to the oldest (Annette) that feels like there’s nothing to tell at all. There is a great shot early when we see all five women naturally sitting but perfectly framed with a great depth of field that suggests this even before anyone begins telling their stories.
It’s an interesting and, at times, very fun little movie. I’m not sure it’s entirely successful, but it works well enough.
Netflix Rating: 4/5
Quality Rating: 3/4