Smiles of a Summer Night (1955)

smiles of a summer night poster 1955 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Just a nice romantic comedy romp style of film

The party set-up takes too long and feels like the film should have been there sooner

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Smiles of a Summer Night

Studio:  Svensk Filmindustri (SF)

Genre(s):  Romance/Comedy

Release Date(s):  December 26, 1955 (Sweden)/September 20, 1956 (UK)/December 23, 1957 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

smiles of a summer night gunnar bjornstrand ulla jacobsson

Less crying…more smiling. It is a summer night

Frederik Egerman (Gunnar Björnstrand) is remarried after the loss of his wife, but his new young wife Anne (Ulla Jacobsson) isn’t working as he hoped as Anne stays chaste.  Henrik (Björn Bjelfvenstam) is Frederick’s son, and he is studying to become a minister, but struggling with love of his new stepmother.  Frederik’s former lover Desiree Armfeldt (Eva Dahlbeck) still is loved by Frederik, but having an affair with Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm (Jarl Kulle) whose wife Charlotte (Margit Carlqvist) is a friend of Anne.  As the maid Petra (Harriet Andersson) watches on with another servant named Frid (Åke Fridell), the families find themselves at the home of Desiree’s mother (Naima Wifstrand) for midsummer…and love, lust, and passion could overflow.

Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, Smiles of a Summer Night (Sommarnattens leende) is a Swedish romantic comedy.  Following Bergman’s Dreams which was also released in 1955, the film was screened at the Cannes Film Festival and received positive reviews.  Since its release, the film has been used as a basis for other films and musicals like A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982) and A Little Night Music (1973).  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #237) and also part of Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema.

smiles of a summer night naima wifstrand dinner party

This lady knows how to throw a party…things are about to get hot!

Smiles of a Summer Night was part of my Bergman collection and the first film in the collection.  The light and fun film feels very much like a classic style of a comedy-romp, but it does also feel like there the movie could get there sooner.

The movie works best once the characters are all brought together, and though the movie is great, it feels like it could have been even better in the structure.  The movie feels like it gets moving at the summer home, and there isn’t much of a reason that couldn’t have gotten there sooner.  The interaction between character, partner swapping, and jealousy is the fun, and the set-up to it takes a bit too long, and I enjoy it more in intimate and tight locations.

The cast is good and that is key to an ensemble movie and despite being characters that are somewhat unsavory, they have to be on their side.  Gunnar Björnstrand has the tough role of being a married man lusting after a woman who isn’t his wife and you still have to kind of be sorry for him.  Ulla Jacobsson likewise has to be free to leave Gunnar’s character without criticism for his son.  Eva Dahlbeck plays a femme fatale in many ways that has her own plans, but she can’t be unlikeable. I felt that more could have been done with Harriet Andersson’s Petra (her ending up with the Frid character seemed rushed), and both Margit Carlqvist and Jarl Kulle felt a bit like non-players in the core cast.  Longtime Bergman collaborator Bibi Andersson has her first role in a Bergman film as one of the actresses in Desiree’s stage play.

smiles of a summer night gunnar bjornstrand eva dahlbeck

I’ve made a huge mistake…

The movie is rather basic, though there are scenes which shows Bergman’s skill.  Scenes like the dinner party and some of the ending sequences are good looking and recent transfers of the film show how clean and clear Bergman shot his films…even then.

Smiles of a Summer Night is a nice Bergman film.  I personally prefer his dramas, but Bergman also has a strong sense of comedy.  While the film is a romance, it also feels rather “anti-romance” in that the characters often have settled and when they do act on the romance, it is rushed, quick, and impulsive (the running of Henrik and Anna feels a lot like the end of The Graduate)…it is romantic, but it feels like lust is mixed in.  Bergman follows Smiles of a Summer Night with The Seventh Seal in 1957.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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