Infidelity was one of the many bleak themes that Swedish director Ingmar Bergman dwelled on within his films and his early film Smiles of a Summer Night is one that greatly emphasizes that. Smiles of a Summer Night, Bergman's witty sex comedy, came at a time in which Bergman's marriage, and love affair was deteriorating, and he was extremely miserable. Two of his films just bombed at the box office and the head of the production company threatened his future if he every made another drama again. Ingmar Bergman came up with only one option: write a comedy. He even said to a group of students at the Southern Methodist University, "This was a terrible time in my life, and I was extremely depressed. So I said, 'Why not make a film just for fun?' I went away to Switzerland and had two alternatives: Write Smiles of a Summer Night or kill myself." So during an extremely deep depression Bergman developed a dark, sexy, witty comedy that involved such snappy and fast-paced dialogue, that could be greatly compared to the American screwball classics of the 1930's. Smiles of a Summer Night is set in Sweden during the late 19th century, where an actress decides to invite to her mother's country house party two married men, who have both been recent lovers of hers; and invite both of their wives. Bergman thought when first writing the story, "It was a challenge to write a comedy with a mathematical relationship: man-woman, man-woman...four pairs. Scramble them and then solve the equation." And soon enough this mathematical game of love begins, as the film will bring upon such things as manipulation, deception, flirtation, humiliation, lustful temptations, Russian Roulette and a trick bed that comes out through a secret trap door within a wall with a cherub on top of a bed that trumpets a tune. No artist for this story could be better to direct this film than Ingmar Bergman who was himself married five times, and not faithfully. He was known to have public relationships during his marriages with several of the actresses in his films like Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullmann and Harriet Andersson. I believe Smiles of a Summer Night was a way for Bergman to cast out his demons of his extreme feelings of guilt, selfishness and anger towards himself and the male sex altogether, as he repeatedly returned to the themes of infidelity in his later films, most harshly in his painful and excruciating drama Scenes From a Marriage.
Fredrik Egerman (Gunnar Bjornstrand) is a middle-aged lawyer married to a 19-year-old beauty named Anne. At work he receives theatre tickets from his assistant to attend and watch the great actress Desiree Armfeldt perform, a woman who was once his former mistress. She took him in after the death of his first wife, but eventually threw him out.
Before arriving home Egerman stops to pick up photos that were just developed of young Anne. When arriving home he is greeted by Petra (Ulla Jacobsson) his sexy, and saucy maid. His repressed son who is in school to be a theology student is there reading with Anne. Anne is excited when her husband gives her theatre tickets and she excitingly wonders what she should wear.
Fredrik isn't happy with his son Henrik's profession and says, "How thoughtless of me to buy only two tickets. But I suppose comedy is all too worldly for a man of God." Anne and Fredrik catch some rest before the show and leave Henrik alone. When Petra walks and flirts in front of Henrik he says to her, "Stop walking like that. You sway your hips, Petra."
Henrik suddenly can't control his impulses and grabs her to kiss her, but she pulls away and slaps him, smiles and walks out of the room. Henrik is so sexually frustrated that he attends to play the piano to get his mind off his sexual desires. Half asleep in bed, Fredrik starts to kiss Anne and mumbles, "Desiree, how I've longed for you..." Anne gets up and doesn't know what to think at her husband's comments.
That evening Fredrik and Anne head to the theatre and while the two watch the show Desiree (Eva Dahlbeck) appears on the stage and starts to perform. Anne asks Fredrik if the actress's name is Desiree, and when he says that she is, she asks to use the eye piece to get a closer look at her. Anne says to her husband that she is extremely beautiful but Fredrik says it's merely make-up.
Anne says, "How can you be sure? Have you seen her in real life?" Desiree starts to recite a monologue during the show saying, "We all know that each man has his dignity. We women have the right to commit manifold sins against husbands, lovers and son, excepting one: to offend their dignity. If we do so, we are foolish and must bear the consequences. Rather, we should make of a man's dignity our foremost ally and caress it, soothe it, speak fondly to it and handle it as our dearest toy."
Desiree says these lines while staring at Anne's husband and so Anne starts to cry and asks to go home. When arriving home Petra helps Anne to bed but Anne realizes that Petra and Henrik had sex. Frederik enters the dining room and sits down to have a drink saying to his son, "I didn't know playing guitar was part of a clergyman's education." Henrik says he is very unhappy but his father says he shouldn't be because he is young, has champagne and a girl who is decidedly attractive.
Henrik says he doesn't love her and he sinned but his father is proud of him saying, "Sex is the young boy's and the old man's toy. Love is...a young man loves himself. His self-love, and his love of love itself." Henrik tells his father that Petra was so sarcastic to him after the sex because it was his first time and he couldn't perform. Petra cruelly said to him, 'Better luck next time' and laughed. "One's first time is always a miserable farce," says Fredrik. "Fortunately, women don't take it half as seriously as we do."
Petra comes in to inform Fredrik that is wife is now ready for bed. Before leaving to his room Fredrik says to Petra and in front of his son, "You're a good girl Petra. I shall see to it you have a raise." When entering the bedroom Fredrik embraces his wife, and she asks him if he would be jealous if Henrik ever tried courting her and if she actually took a fancy to him. Fredrik says he would be jealous saying, "Because you're both so young and I'm so old and because I'm fond of you both." Anne asks Fredrik why he married her and if it was because she was 16 at the time saying, "And the wolf thought, 'I wonder what a young girl would taste like.' Admit the wolf had wicked thoughts."
Before she goes to bed, she tells Fredrik that she wants to have a child, and mentions how old that Desiree actress was on stage suggesting she looked 50. Henrik is trying to read a passage in a book about a man's virtue to Petra but she is not listening saying, "Your as sweet as a little child." She starts to head to bed with Henrik following from behind wanting to have sex with her once again, but this time she rejects him. Fredrik in the mean time is quietly hiding and waiting for everyone to head to bed so he can make his secret rendezvous to the theatre to see Desiree.
When arriving to the theater he meets her back stage in her dressing room and when she sees him, she says "You old goat, you brute, you long-nosed camel! You're looking unusually human." While catching up on old times, Fredrik tells Desiree that he thought of her in his dreams and how he was murmuring her name in his sleep. When he mentions Anne's strange behavior and her hostility towards him that evening and even her suggesting Desiree was 50, Desiree informs him that she probably heard his mumblings.
Fredrik tells her that for once, he is truly innocent. Desiree says, "It must have been early in the evening." Fredrik finally tells Desiree a secret about him and Anne and says, "We've been married for two years and I haven't...In short, she is still untouched." Desiree is shocked saying, "The wolf has turned into the gentle shepherd." Fredrik says how he really loves this one and wants to leave her undisturbed for her to mature. Desiree decides to take a quick bath and when Fredrik asks if he should leave, she tells him not to be foolish.
After stripping down and entering the bath, (off-screen of course) Desiree asks Fredrik, "Am I as beautiful as I was? Have the years changed me?" Fredrik says that she as just as beautiful and desirable as ever. After getting dressed Desiree invites Fredrik back to her home as her, Fredrik and Desiree's servant Malla leave the theatre. When strolling down the street Desiree's starts to sing while Fredrik falls in a puddle, completely drenching his clothes.
When inside her home Desiree gives Fredrik a nightgown and a clownish nightcap to wear, and he asks her how a woman could ever love a man. Desiree says, "A woman's view is seldom based on aesthetics. And one can always turn out the light." The nightgown she gives him belongs to her lover, a married aristocrat and officer named Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm. Suddenly Fredrik sees a young boy and when it is revealed that the boy's name is also Fredrik, he starts to question Desiree and if the two of them had a child during their affair.
Desiree informs him that it is her son and her son alone, and named him Fredrik after Frederick the Great of Prussia. After several arguments and make-ups, Malcolm finally returns home. Fredrik doesn't want Desiree to let him in and she thinks he is scared of him. Fredrik tells her, "A gentlemen does not face a rival deprived of his trousers." Malcolm finally comes in and gives Desiree flowers informing her he has 20 days to stay before his next leave. Malcolm is wondering what this strange man is doing here at this hour and also wearing his nightgown. The three become awkward and silent and Desiree goes to see if Fredrik's clothes are dry, secretly entertained at this situation that she created.
Malcolm insults Fredrik's profession as a lawyer and tells Fredrik that Desiree has been his mistress for six months saying, "I am an extremely jealous man, a trait other men are ashamed of thinking is a flaw. I'm not ashamed. I'm frank. Are you fond of dueling? I have fought 18 duels. Pistol, rapier, foil, spear, bow, poison, rifle. I have been wounded six times." Malcolm shows of his talent and skill with a fruit knife throwing it straight into a picture hanging on the wall. When things start to get really tense between the two, Desiree returns with Fredrik's dry clothes.
But Malcolm orders Fredrik to leave the house with what he has on and minus the nightgown. Fredrik has no choice and accepts the humiliation as he walks back to his home in his underpants. Days pass and Desiree goes to visit her mother Mrs. Armfeldt in a large estate up in the country. Her mother is found in bed playing solitaire as her daughter Desiree tells her that her and Malcolm decided to finally end the affair. Mrs. Armfeldt asks her daughter what happened and Desiree says:
"I hit him on the head with the poker."
"What did the Count say then?"
"We elected to part amicably."
"Your father once threw me out of a window."
"Was it open?"
"No, closed. I fell straight into a lieutenant colonel. He later became your father."
"You said my father threw you out."
"He became your father later, I said. Aren't you listening? My God I loved him so!"
"The one who threw me out the window, of course. The other one was a dolt. He never could do anything amusing."
"Why don't you write your memoirs?"
"My dear daughter, I was given this estate for promising not to write my memoirs."
Desiree asks if her mother can let her throw a party but her mother wants to know who she would be inviting saying, "If it's actors, they'll have to eat in the stables." Desiree says she will invite The Count, and the Countess Malcolm. Mr. Egerman the lawyer, his wife and his son Henrik. Her mother asks Desiree of her intentions and Desiree says, "I mean to do a good deed. I am tired of people. But that doesn't stop me from loving them." Mrs. Armfeldt says, "Beware of good deeds. They cost far too much and leave a nasty smell."
Malcolm's wife Countless Charlotte (Margit Carqivt) arrives home while her husband is practicing his shooting in a shooting gallery as the two of them seem to openly share to each other their stories of their infidelities, as Charlotte knows about her husband and Desiree. Because Charlotte, is an old friend of Anne Egerman, Malcolm decides to tell Charlotte that he caught lawyer Fredrik Egerman with Desiree and how he intimidated the big shot lawyer to leave the house in his underpants.
Charlotte takes her husbands pistol and shoots a few shots as her husband tells her that they have been invited to Mrs. Armfeldt's that weekend and the Egerman's will ironically be there to. Charlotte says, "How interesting." She then turns the pistol to her husband and asks him, "What would you do if I shot you instead?" Malcolm ignores his wife's threats and insists she go to Anne Egerman's home and report to her friend her husband infidelities. Charlotte asks her husband if he is jealous of this Fredrik, and Malcolm shouts, "My wife may cheat on me, but if anyone touches my mistress, I become a tiger!" Right when he leaves she fires at the front door with the bullet shattering the glass.
In a humourous scene after breakfast at Fredrik's home, Henrik is left alone at the breakfast table and Petra walks in and flirts with him. She than lowers her top and takes his hand and puts in upon her breast, but Henrik fights off her temptations and pushes her back, quickly leaving the room. The maid Beata saw Petra cruelly playing with Henrik and tells her that it isn't right what she is doing to that poor boy. Petra ignores Beata and is called upstairs to brush Anne's hair and while brushing it Anne asks if Petra's a virgin. "Dear me, no!" Petra says. Anne says that she is still one and Petra tells her she already knew that by being able to tell by her skin and eyes.
Anne asks Petra how old she was when she lost her virginity and Petra says 16 and describes it as being so nice and fun you could almost die. Anne asks Petra if she was in love with the boy she first had sex with and Petra says, "I'm always in love madame." Anne also asks Petra if she would ever like to be a man and Petra tells her "Dear me, no! What a horrid thought!" The two start playfully laughing at the idea and wrestle around on the bed. Anne decides to attend to the rest of her house duties but when she finds out the maid Beata has already done them she goes into Henrik's office to pester him. She asks him what he is reading and insults his robe and slippers and demands he removes them so she can burn them.
Before leaving she turns to him and says, "And here's for flirting with Petra. Shame on you..." and slaps Henrik. She sees the pain and shame in Henrik's eyes as a tear rolls down his face, and she can emphasize with his pain as she than tenderly touches his face. They both feel a sudden love for one another which suddenly bothers Anne and she quickly leaves and runs out of the room crying. She then wipes away her tears and goes into her husbands study but Fredrik is too busy to give her any loving attention.
Countess Charlotte suddenly arrives at Fredrik's home and her and Anne sit down to chat. Charlotte asks Anne how her husband is feeling and if he had caught a cold, because he was seen in town the other night in his underpants. Charlotte then informs poor Anne that it was said Fredrik was seen coming from Desiree Armfeldt's home. Anne tries to come off as if her husband already told her about it but Charlotte says that she doesn't believe her. Anne than tells Charlotte that her Fredrik probably seen Charlotte's husband at Desiree's home, because it's no secret from the whole town that Charlotte's husband Malcolm and Desiree are having a love affair.
Charlotte starts to get angry and starts to get into a rage saying, "It's none of my business what the cad does. I respond in kind. I hate him! I hate him! I hate him! Men are horrid...vain and conceited. And they have hair all over their bodies. He smiles at me...kisses me. He comes to me at night...driving me insane with his caresses. He speaks kindly to me and brings me flowers, always yellow roses. He talks about his horses, his women and duels. About his soldiers and his hunting...talks and talks and talks! Love is a loathsome business. In spite of everything, I still love him. I would do anything for him. Anything...you understand. Just so he'll pat me on the head and say, 'That's a good dog.' Desiree is so strong and independent. No one can master her. Not even Carl-Magnus. That's why he's obsessed by her. All men are drawn to her. I don't understand it. She most likely never has loved. She probably only loves herself." Suddenly Fredrik walks out to inform his wife about the invitation to Desiree Armfeldt's mother's country home, and Anne declines and first but reluctantly decides that she wants to go to finally meet this Desiree.
The next scene is Anne and Fredrik already settled in at Mrs. Armfeldt's country estate. Fredrik and Mrs. Armfeldt are watching Fredrik's son Henrik and Anne and Mrs. Armfeldt says to Fredrik, "Your children are very beautiful, especially the young girl." Fredrik corrects Mrs. Armfeldt that the young girl is actually his wife. Mrs. Armfeldt says, "I believe you lead a strenuous life." Petra meets Mrs. Armfeldt's beer guzzling butler Frid as he tells her she's a charming piece of woman and slaps her on the behind.
Anne and Frid carry her master's things upstairs in Mrs. Armfeldt's dead spouse's bedroom and Frid decides to shows her a button that when pressed reveals a secret compartment in which a bed slides out and a statue of an angel comes out of the wall playing the tune from a trumpet. "Thus the pretty lady came through the wall, bed and all, to frolic with His Highness," Frid says. "You're a little devil, aren't you?" Desiree comes outside to introduce herself to Fredrik and Anne as the Count Malcolm arrives with his Countless Charlotte. Desiree pulls Charlotte inside to show her room while the men play croquet out back in the Chateau's garden.
Desiree really wants to get Charlotte alone to tell her plan and when Charlotte asks her if she is going to be frank Desiree says, "Why not? We are enemies, after all. Enemies can sometimes have mutual interests. Should they then go on being enemies and disregard these mutual interests? Then let us make peace, at least for the moment." Charlotte is interested in Desiree's plan as the two watch the men aggressively and competitively play croquet from the window. Desiree tells her the plan is for Charlotte to get her husband back while Desiree steals Fredrik back from Anne.
During dinner when the servants bring out the champagne Charlotte asks her husband if he believes all women are seducible. He says, "Absolutely! Age, class, conditions and looks are of no consequence. Especially married women." Charlotte wonders if women could be the seducers as well but Fredrik says, "Men are always the ones seduced." Henrik is offended by this kind of immoral talk as he yells out, "Enemies, offensives, strategies, mines! Are you discussing love or warfare? We were brought into the world to love one another." Charlotte makes a wager to her husband across the table that she could seduce Mr. Egerman in less than 15 minutes. Malcolm doesn't think she can and his wife says if she can successfully seduce him her husband must do what she wishes, and he agrees to this wager.
Mrs. Armfeldt calms everyone down and makes a speech to the guests: "My dear children and friends. According to legend, the wine is pressed from grapes whose juice gushes out like drops of blood against the pale grape skin. It is also said that to each cask filled with this wine was added a drop of milk from a young mother's breast and a drop of seed from a young stallion. These lend to the wine secret seductive powers. Whoever drinks hereof does so at his own risk and must answer for himself."
Everyone at the table takes a drink. Before the drink Anne whispers, "I drink to my love," while Charlotte whispers, "For my success," and Fredrik whispers, "Anne." Henrik cannot take a sip and he suddenly smashes the glass as Fredrik tells his son to calm down and stop making a scene. Henrik says to his father, "There are limits to what I'll tolerate. Are you an emperor to rule over all our thoughts? You, who are completely devoid of all normal decency. When I bring you my sorrows, you reply with sarcasm. I'm ashamed to call you my father." Desiree tells Henrik if he wants to smash glasses, just smash hers and Henrik says to her, "Don't you suffer from the lies and compromises? Doesn't your own life torment you?"
Anne feels for Henrik and comforts him while Fredrik can see that his wife deeply cares for his son. Mrs. Armfeldt says, "Why is youth so dreadfully merciless? And who gave them permission to be that way?" Malcolm says, "The boy is entering the church. He's paid to create twitchings in our reluctant souls." Henrik gets furious at those comments made by Malcolm but knows how dangerous the man is and instead asks everyone at the table to forgive him as he runs out of the dinner hall. Anne is worried for Henrik and asks her husband if she can retire to her room early.
After dinner Charlotte walks up to Desiree and says, "And we thought that first part was to be most difficult." Desiree says, "But the most delicate one comes next." Malcolm walks up to the ladies and asks what the two are whispering about, as he asks Desiree for her personal company as the group all make their way back to their rooms for some sleep. While leaving, Charlotte tries to make a pass at Fredrik and leans over and kisses him. Fredrik asks why she is doing that and if the reason is to make her husband jealous. Charlotte says that her husband cannot see them from afar saying to him, "I'm an honest little rattlesnake. I'm warning you now."
The very next morning Frid and Petra are playfully flirting and teasing one another, chasing each other outside of the summer-house while Henrik watches from his bedroom window and says to himself, "Oh, Lord! If your world is full of sin, then I want to sin. Let the bird's nest in my hair. Take my wretched virtue from me. I can't stand it any longer." Henrik then has the idea to commit suicide by hanging himself from the guest bedroom ceiling but even that seems to fail as the rope breaks off from a ledge and Henrik accidentally falls and hits the button that opens up the secret bedroom compartment, which surpringly reveals Anne sleeping in it. Henrik is shocked when finding this discovery saying, "I must be dead after all." Henrik leans over to kiss her and Anne wakes up as they embrace and kiss. "I have loved you all along" they both say to one another.
Frid is outside in the morning sun laying under a tree with Petra as he says to her, "Do you see, little one? The summer night is smiling. The summer night has three smiles. This is the first, between midnight and dawn, when young lovers open their hearts and lions." Petra asked why she has never been a young lover and Frid tells her that there are few young lovers in the world and Petra asks what will become of them. Frid says, "No, my sugar pie. We don't have the gift. Nor the punishment." Henrik runs up to Frid and Petra and asks them for a favor. He tells them that him and Anne are deeply in love and want them to help assist them in eloping. Fredrik sees his wife and son embracing and planning to elope as he watches them get onto a horse and ride off away from the estate, as Anne throws her wedding vail onto the dirt road.
The evening arrives as Frid lies near the windmill in the hay near his lover Petra and says, "Now follows the second smile of the summer night. For the jesters, the fools, and the incorrigible." Petra believes that she must be smiling at them and when she asks Frid to marry him he lets out a belly laugh, even though he told her he wanted to earlier. Petra is frustrated that he is mocking her proposal and the two wrestle with one another in the hay. Desiree tucks her little son Fredrik to bed as she watches Charlotte from the bedroom window sneak into the pavilion to be with the vulnerable Fredrik; Desiree now knowing Charlotte is not to be trusted.
Desiree decides to then walk into Malcolm's bedroom to wake him up and when he realizes that his wife is not in bed with him, Desiree informs him she is with Mr. Egerman. Malcolm is furious and when Desiree asks if he is jealous Malcolm says to her, "One can daily with my mistress, but touch my wife and I become a tiger!" Malcolm enters the pavilion and tells his wife to leave. He then demands Fredrik for a duel in Russian roulette saying, "I have the honor of offering you a duel which gives us exactly equal odds." In a disturbing but humourous scene the two spin the revolver on the table to see who goes first as they both have a toast to drink to "faithful women" They both take turns taking the revolver up and aiming it to their temples and pulling the trigger, which understandably seems to frighten poor Fredrik.
When the gun finally goes off off-screen the women believe something horrible has happened, until Malcolm walks out with a smile on his face and informs them that he only loaded the chamber of the revolver with soot saying, "Would a nobleman risk his life for the sake of a shyster?" Desiree is furious at Malcolm's cruel trick and goes in to comfort Fredrik while Malcolm says to his wife, "You're all ridiculous. You, Desiree and all the others. Unfaithful and lascivious."
Before walking away his wife Charlotte says, "Carl-Magnus Malcolm! You're forgetting their wager" Since Charlotte successfully seduced Fredrik like she bet she would Malcolm must do what she wishes. Malcolm asks her what her wish would be, and she asks him to now on be faithful towards her. Malcolm smiles and kisses her saying, "Swear to be faithful for at least seven eternities of pleasure, eighteen false smiles, and 57 tender whisperings without meaning. I shall remain faithful until the great yawn do us part. In short, I shall remain faithful in my way." Desiree tends to the soot in Fredrik's eyes and she says to him, "You had a great fall Fredrik Egerman. But you will land softly." Fredrik is humiliated once again and needs to lay down and when resting he asks Desiree once again why she decided to name her son Fredrik. "Isn't it a good name for a little boy?" she playfully answers.
Petra is outside by the windmill forcing Frid to accept her proposal into marriage and he finally agrees and that the two are engaged now Frid says, "May Frid rest in peace. He's on his way to hell now!" The morning sun starts to rise and the hens begin to crow as Frid gets up and shouts, "There is no better life than this!" Petra adds, "And the summer night smiled for the third time!" The two hug one another and Frid says, "Oh, yes, my little sugar-plum. For the sad and dejected, for the sleepless and lost souls, for the frightened and the lonely, " as the dilemmas of the four pairs of lovers appear to be happily resolved with the rising of a new day.
Late in 1955, Ingmar Bergman made a nearly perfect work—the exquisite carnal comedy Smiles of a Summer Night. It was the distillation of elements he had worked with for several years, in the 1952 Secrets of Women (originally called Waiting Women), the 1954 A Lesson in Love, and the early 1955 Dreams; these episodic comedies of infidelity are like early attempts or drafts. They were all set in the present, and the themes were plainly exposed; the dialogue, full of arch epigrams, was often clumsy, and the ideas, like the settings, were frequently depressingly middle class and novelettish. Structurally, they were sketchy and full of flashbacks.
There were scattered lovely moments, as if Bergman’s eye were looking ahead to the visual elegance of Smiles of a Summer Night, but the plot threads were still woolly. Smiles of a Summer Night was made after Bergman directed a stage production of The Merry Widow, and he gave the film a turn-of-the-century setting. Perhaps it was this distance that made it possible for him to create a work of art out of what had previously been mere clever ideas. He not only tied up the themes in the intricate plot structure of a love roundelay, but in using the lush period setting, he created an atmosphere that saturated the themes. The film is bathed in beauty, removed from the banalities of short skirts and modern-day streets and shops, and removed in time, it draws us closer.
Bergman found a high style within a set of boudoir farce conventions: in Smiles of a Summer Night, boudoir farce becomes lyric poetry. The sexual chases and the round dance are romantic, nostalgic; the coy bits of feminine plotting are gossamer threads of intrigue. The film becomes an elegy to transient love: a gust of wind and the whole vision may drift away.
There are four of the most talented and beautiful women ever to appear in one film: as the actress, the great Eva Dahlbeck, appearing onstage, giving a house party, and in one inspired suspended moment, singing “Freut euch des Lebens”; the impudent love-loving maid, Harriet Andersson—as a blonde, but as opulent and sensuous as in her other great roles; Margit Carlqvist as the proud, unhappy countess; Ulla Jacobsson as the eager virgin.
Even Bergman’s epigrams are much improved when set in the quotation marks of a stylized period piece. (Though I must admit I can’t find justification for such bright exchanges as the man’s question, “How could a woman ever love a man?” and her response: “A woman’s view is seldom based on aesthetics. Anyone can always turn out the light.” I would have thought you couldn’t get a laugh on that one unless you tried it in an old folks’ home, but Bergman is a man of the theater—audiences break up on it.) Bergman’s sensual scenes are much more charming, more unexpected in the period setting: when they are deliberately unreal they have grace and wit. How different it is to watch the same actor and actress making love in the stuck elevator of Secrets of Women and in the golden pavilion of Smiles of a Summer Night. Everything is subtly improved in the soft light and delicate, perfumed atmosphere.
In Bergman’s modern comedies, marriages are contracts that bind the sexes in banal boredom forever. The female strength lies in convincing the man that he’s big enough to act like a man in the world, although secretly he must acknowledge his dependence on her. (J. M. Barrie used to say the same thing in the cozy, complacent Victorian terms of plays like What Every Woman Knows; it’s the same concept that Virginia Woolf raged against—rightly, I think—in Three Guineas.) The straying male is just a bad child—but it is the essence of maleness to stray. Bergman’s typical comedy heroine, Eva Dahlbeck, is the woman as earth mother who finds fulfillment in accepting the infantilism of the male. In the modern comedies, she is a strapping goddess with teeth big enough to eat you and a jaw and neck to swallow you down; Bergman himself is said to refer to her as “the Woman Battleship.”
But in Smiles of a Summer Night, though the roles of the sexes are basically the same, the perspective is different. In this vanished setting, nothing lasts, there are no winners in the game of love; all victories are ultimately defeats—only the game goes on. When Eva Dahlbeck, as the actress, wins back her old lover (Gunnar Björnstrand), her plot has worked—but she really hasn’t won much. She caught him because he gave up; they both know he’s defeated. Smiles is a tragic comedy; the man who thought he “was great in guilt and in glory” falls—he’s “only a bumpkin.” This is a defeat we can all share—for have we not all been forced to face ourselves as less than we hoped to be? There is no lesson, no moral—the women’s faces do not tighten with virtuous endurance (the setting is too unreal for endurance to be plausible). The glorious old Mrs. Armfeldt (Naima Wifstrand) tells us that she can teach her daughter nothing—or, as she puts it: “One can never protect a single human being from any kind of suffering. That’s what makes one so tremendously weary.”
Smiles of a Summer Night was the culmination of Bergman’s “rose” style, and he has not returned to it. (The Seventh Seal, perhaps his greatest “black” film, was also set in a remote period.) The Swedish critic Rune Waldekranz has written that Smiles of a Summer Night “wears the costume of the fin de siècle period for visual emphasis of the erotic comedy’s fundamental premise—that the step between the sublime and the ridiculous in love is a short one, but nevertheless one that a lot of people stub their toe on. Although suffering from several ingenuous slapstick situations, Smiles of a Summer Night is a comedy in the most important meaning of the word. It is an arabesque on an essentially tragic theme, that of man’s insufficiency, at the same time as it wittily illustrates the belief expressed fifty years ago by Hjalmar Söderberg that the only absolutes in life are ‘the desire of the flesh and the incurable loneliness of the soul.’”
What do you do when you are thoroughly miserable? A serious love affair is over, and a marriage to a wonderful woman is ending. Two of your films have bombed at the box office, and the head of your production company says he will ax you if you make another unmarketable drama. Your finances are extremely meager, but your body is even thinner, down to a measly 125 pounds. You have constant stomach pains and think you are dying of cancer (though later a specialist will determine that it is all psychosomatic). And you have a group of players who have been acting together for years and need a summer project. If you are Ingmar Bergman, you write a comedy.
He said it succinctly himself to a group of students at Southern Methodist University: “This was a terrible time in my life, and I was extremely depressed. So I said, ‘Why not make a film just for fun?’ I went away to Switzerland and had two alternatives: write Smiles of a Summer Night or kill myself.” How lucky for him and us that he picked the former.
The starting point was an old abandoned idea, An Ancient Chinese Proverb, a drama about a young man in love with his father’s second wife. That was contemporary; for the new comedy, he chose a 1901 setting. He had had a recent stage hit, in 1954, with The Merry Widow, and was doubtless also thinking of three comic masters found under the letter M: Marivaux, Molière, and Mozart. Costume, in any case, was good for comedy: period clothes, hairdos, and manners could elicit laughs from audiences who thought themselves above such carryings on.
Still, what kind of comedy comes out of such a deep depression? Not one for belly laughs or helpless giggles, though those too may occur. More likely was what Stanley Kauffmann called “a comedy more barbed than funny”—more cutting wit than rollicking humor. Then again, many of the world’s great comedies play out against a darkness lying in wait without or within. Think of Molière’s Misanthrope, Pirandello’s Henry IV, Shaw’s Pygmalion, or almost anything by Giraudoux or Anouilh, Kleist or Brecht, Chekhov or Beckett. Were this not the case, the result would be farce.
Consider now what Bergman views as one of the greatest goods and one of the greatest evils. That perhaps supreme good is what he calls contact; the name of the fate worse than death is humiliation. In a telling phrase about Bergman’s cinema, David Thomson refers to the “harrowing separateness of people, the intractable privacy of men and women even in love.” There was that in two earlier Bergman comedies, or near comedies, A Lesson in Love and Dreams; there is that in spades in Smiles of a Summer Night. What happens when attempted contact fails: humiliation for one or both parties.
These two concepts in Bergman’s work and life stretch far and wide, high and low. At the lowest level, take his inscription in a book about him that I had with me at the time of our interview: “With thanks for a fine contact.” At the highest, there was the humiliation incurred when goons from the Internal Revenue Bureau hauled Bergman away mid-rehearsal for alleged income-tax fraud, of which he was duly cleared. Still, his sense of humiliation was such that he left Sweden, outside of which he never felt well, for Germany, ostensibly forever.
A comedy of wit, then, which tends to take the form of one-upmanship. Somebody says something silly, and another’s smart riposte tears the person down. Or the one says something clever, and the other trumps with something cleverer. The result: humiliation, trivial though it may be, but certainly greater if what is lost is an actual or potential lover. For where is humiliation—or, in effect, loss—greater than in the game of love?
In one of his poems, George Meredith wrote, “In tragic life . . . passions spin the plot.” Note the two terms derived from theater: tragic and plot. And as in life, so in theater; as in the tragic, so in the comic. The chief, constantly underlying image in Smiles of a Summer Night is theater. Desirée Armfeldt, the pivot of the plot, is a great actress, and theater is her life even as her life is theater—either way, a great, perhaps the great, game. This is beautifully suggested when lawyer Fredrik Egerman and his virgo intacta child wife, Anne, are seated in the proscenium box at the theater. As the curtain goes up on the stage, light reflected from it goes up also on the stage-shaped box; a luminous parallel is conveyed: there is theater on both sides of the footlights.
In the French comedy performed, the countess, portrayed by Desirée, has among her names Célimène (Molière’s heroine) and Francen (as in Victor Francen, a leading French theater and movie actor of the forties). She steals women’s husbands and returns them, after a brief dalliance, as tender lovers, faithful husbands, and exemplary fathers. Her trick is to treat men’s dignity as a beloved toy or to gently put it to sleep—a toy with suggestions of both penis and doll. “Love,” as the countess elaborates, “is a perpetual juggling of three balls: heart, words, and loins. How easy it is to juggle these balls, and how easy it is to drop one of them.” Juggling, too, is a theatrical game.
The juggler-protagonist here is Desirée, the desired of all men. Bergman has said that one of his wives, Gun Grut, was the inspiration for many of his heroines, including Desirée, as portrayed by Eva Dahlbeck. Gun and Eva together embodied for him “indomitable femininity.” But the feminine mystique, in which he manifestly believed, has four embodiments here. Besides the mature, experienced, and, when need be, maternal Desirée, there is also the pretty, cosseted girl-child, Anne, her womanhood in bud; her saucy, sexy, flirtatious counterpart, Petra, not above using her allure for advancement; and finally Charlotte, the neglected young wife, seething with anger at her philandering husband yet also loving him, even unto seducing another in order to recover him through jealousy. Desirée is the comforter of men, Anne the arouser of their paternal instincts, Petra the good-humored object of their lust, and Charlotte, tortured and tormenting, the dangerous woman.
When starting out on Smiles of a Summer Night, Bergman says he “thought of it as a technical challenge to write a comedy with a mathematical relationship: man-woman, man-woman . . . four pairs. Scramble them and then solve the equation.” The schema is to show each woman first with the wrong man, then ending up with the right one. Thus Anne, who at sixteen married the much older widower Fredrik Egerman, will end up with his son, the repressed, timid theological student Henrik, the two of them having yearned for each other all along. Henrik, who had an unsuccessful sexual encounter with Petra, will be duly superseded by the sexually experienced, mature coachman Frid. Desirée is first seen as the mistress of the cocky, Don Juan–esque officer and aristocrat Count Malcolm, but she is a much better fit with her ex-lover, the wittily sarcastic yet fundamentally mellow lawyer—and both of them cigar smokers! Indeed, while in bed, with his virgin wife about to yield to him, Fredrik was dreaming of Desirée. The predatory Malcolm belongs with his intense wife, united by what seems like a sadomasochistic relationship. Significantly, we first glimpse Charlotte up close at the other end of the flame, lighting her husband’s cigarette.
I spoke of humiliation. Desirée is the only one not greatly humiliated in the course of the action. Anne is humiliated by her husband’s muttering of Desirée’s name in bed, by Desirée’s glance at him that she believes she catches at the play, by Charlotte’s revelation that Fredrik was chased out of Desirée’s apartment in a nightshirt, and by her uselessness in her own kitchen and garden, where her servants rule. Fredrik is humiliated by being tossed out of Desirée’s apartment by Malcolm, wearing the count’s nightgown and a clownish nightcap; he is not even granted the count’s robe, which Malcolm repossesses along with his mistress. He will be humiliated more thoroughly by his wife’s elopement with his son, and by the Russian roulette duel with Malcolm that leaves him with soot on his face. Henrik is humiliated by his failed sex with Petra; his outburst at the dinner party of Mrs. Armfeldt, Desirée’s mother; and his unsuccessful suicide attempt. Charlotte is humiliated by her faithless and brutal husband and is reduced to responding with a tearful tirade against him and all men at tea with Anne. The servants, Petra and Frid, Malla and Beata, are above, or perhaps beneath, humiliation.
Clearly, the continual change of partners echoes a French sex comedy. But beyond theater, the film partakes of another art, music. There is singing behind the opening credits; singing by Desirée as she, her maid Malla, and Fredrik form a little procession from the theater to her house. Also her significant postprandial singing in the yellow pavilion of a German lied: “Rejoice in life while the little lamp still glows, / Pluck, before she withers, the rose.” She and Fredrik, no longer young, must especially seize the day. Earlier, in Desirée’s parlor, where Fredrik and Malcolm tensely confront each other, the count whistles a military march while the lawyer hums a bit from “Là ci darem la mano,” the Zerlina–Don Giovanni seduction duet from Mozart’s opera. And the cherub on top of the trick bed that unites Anne and Henrik trumpets an impish tune.
The film’s score, sparingly used (eventually Bergman was to forgo scores altogether), is by Erik Nordgren, whom Bergman used most often. Nordgren was no slouch, though not quite one of the greats whom Bergman employed at other times: Karl-Birger Blomdahl, Erland von Koch, and Dag Wirén. The music is mostly a bridge between scenes, like the shots of moonlight and gliding swans between the various nocturnal escapades at Mrs. Armfeldt’s weekend château party, or crashing arpeggios (when Fredrik, at dinner, becomes aware of Anne’s love for Henrik, and again when, lurking in the shadows, he watches the two young ones elope by coach). It can be impassioned, as when Desirée races in a carriage to her mother’s to plan the party; romantic, as when Henrik is rowing Anne on the Armfeldt lake; or comical, as when Malcolm, with his wife and an orderly in tow, drives up to the Armfeldt château in a sputtering motorcar.
But music influences the very musical Bergman more deeply when he adopts its rhythms for the structure of his films. More kinetic scenes alternate with more stationary ones, agitation with sedateness. And there are the strategically recurrent themes. Thus the photographs of Anne that Fredrik picks up in the beginning, that he makes more of as he fingers them than he does of his trophy wife near the middle, and that get symbolically pocketed by Desirée near the end. Various clocks strike hortatorily, notably the cuckoo clock for cuckoldry in Desirée’s parlor, and the church tower clock with its circling carved figures corresponding to some of the film’s characters, a roundelay that first ends with a symbolically crowned female figure, next with the grim reaper. The dance of life, climaxing with the dominant female, can as easily become the dance of death.
Bergman is fond of symbols, like these clock figures. Hence the windmills seen at film’s end, driven by the wind as the dramatis personae are by passion. Hence, too, the veil that flies off Anne’s head as she rides away with Henrik and that is picked up by the stunned Fredrik. It stands for the hymen, for Anne’s loss of virginity, for the husband left to, so to speak, pick up the pieces. That sadly, ominously floating veil is part of another art that informs the film: choreography. We see it in the fierce croquet game played by Fredrik and Malcolm in the château’s garden and observed from a window by the plotting Desirée and Charlotte. (The numerous watchings, from windows, doorways, and theatrical wings, are, of course, highly theatrical.) But the way the camera switches from the count’s violent playing of the game to the women doing their beneficent conspiring exemplifies the choreography inherent in camera movement and placement, and in crosscutting. When Malcolm and Charlotte target-shoot together in the bowling alley the count has converted into a shooting gallery, their movements are a clear pas de deux. Even more obvious choreography is in the bucolic-erotic sex chase of Frid and Petra, observed by Henrik from a window, a mating dance that, in installments, leads to the end of the film, with the three symbolic smiles of the summer night. But there is choreography even in such tiny bits as when, at dinner party’s end, Petra leads away the weepy Anne (repeating the weepy departure from Desirée’s play) and they bump into the dejected Fredrik’s rear: yet another female alliance, yet another humiliation of the male.
That bump, too, is symbolic. As are the smiles between midnight and daybreak of the long, luminous northern night. Here, the beer-swilling Frid reveals himself to be a bit of a poet, and thus more deserving of the spirited Petra. The first smile is for young lovers, but when the teary Petra asks why she was never a young lover, Frid alerts her to the scarcity of young lovers and to their love’s being a punishment as well as a gift. Anne and Henrik are the young lovers whose punishment, though unseen, may well be their financial straits once married. The second smile is for the likes of Petra and Frid, the jesters, the fools, the unredeemable. For such they are, by their insouciance, lack of education, slaphappiness in the haystack where they make love. The third smile, in the sobering dawn, is for “the sad and dejected, for the sleepless and lost souls, for the frightened and the lonely.” Who are they in this story? The scholar Frank Gado suggests the audience at the movie. True, such people haunt the cinemas, and it is good to think of them receiving a benefaction as well.
To return to the question of what kind of comedy this is, I choose a few marvelously illustrative moments. Take Desirée’s teasing comment backstage to the troubled Fredrik: “You old goat, you brute, you long-nosed camel! You’re looking unusually human.” Throughout the film, almost every character is referred to or refers to himself as some animal—it is almost as if we were in an animal fable. Here, though, we get the reverse: an animal, or animal-like man, becomes in a somewhat ludicrous situation amusingly more human.
The jealous Malcolm, finding Fredrik with his mistress, ominously inquires, “Are you fond of dueling?” To which the lawyer replies: “It’s possible. I’ve never tried.” This, in the face of peril, is humorous bravado. Much later, during that Russian roulette duel, Malcolm declares, in appreciation of Fredrik’s pluck, “Allow me to say that you impress me, Lawyer Egerman.” To which, with a wonderfully quizzical expression and intonation, Fredrik replies, “It’s not courage, dear sir.” Perhaps not, but very good gallows humor.
Again, in the shooting gallery, Malcolm tells Charlotte, “My wife may cheat on me, but if anyone touches my mistress, I become a tiger!” When Desirée gets Malcolm out of bed with the news that Charlotte and Fredrik are alone in the yellow pavilion, he exclaims with the same fury, “One can dally with my mistress, but touch my wife and I become a tiger!” Note first the animal image. Next, the same threat used in reverse; the humiliation of a presumably loving woman by stressing her unimportance compared with her rival. Lastly, the inescapable inference that neither woman means as much to Malcolm as his pride.
What makes this film theatrical? That its main elements are not so much kinetic as confrontational, that the focus is not so much on an action, something expansively visual, as on something verbal, confined to a look, a tic, a quirk accompanied by words that tickle, sting, provoke, or soothe—and stay in place. This, too, is what there is plenty of in Smiles of a Summer Night: an emphasis on the tightness of the acting area rather than on its expansion and constant change.
If the piece is a comedy, the humor is more in what people say and feel than in what they do. But if comedy is sparked by the author’s depression, with surmises of darkness underneath, behind, beyond it, just how is that manifest? In that even when the right people end up together, there is no sense of God in his heaven and everything right with the world. If Anne and Henrik escape together, it is at the cost of profoundly hurting Fredrik, and toward a future that may be all too problematic. If Malcolm and Charlotte are reconciled, it is only because the husband’s jealousy was provoked, his self-importance challenged—and that may quickly pass, as his ironic last speech implies. Even Petra has to extort Frid’s abiding by an opportunistic promise of marriage through fierce pulling on his ears—he doesn’t want to outdo van Gogh in earlessness.
Above all, it may be mostly because of humiliation that Fredrik and Desirée end up together. At some point, the elopement and Russian roulette that guaranteed their presumably forthcoming marriage may not seem to them a solid basis for matrimony. Even the correct solution has something makeshift and fragile, potentially ephemeral, about it. Think of how close to tragic the comic comes here. If the rope had not slipped, Henrik would be dead. If the bed that came through the wall had been his father’s, all hell would have broken loose. If Malcolm had not been alerted in the nick of time to his wife’s incipient dalliance with the hated lawyer, Fredrik might have been shot for real. Even the bullet that the furibund Charlotte shoots at the door through which Malcolm strutted off might have been fired a moment sooner at the faithless spouse himself.
Conversely, if the sleeping Fredrik had not muttered Desirée’s name just as Anne was ready to yield to him, all the mismatched people might have stayed—uncomically—together.
This is where the film’s theatricality manifests itself most powerfully. Whereas film always smacks a bit of the documentary, of photographed reality, the theater tends to remind us of puppet theater, of an omnipotent author-puppeteer pulling so many strings. That in Smiles of a Summer Night you can always feel Bergman cannily in control never quite lets you forget that outside this playfulness there lurks, precariously held at bay, a reality that is no laughing matter.
Smiles of a Summer Night is considered one of Ingmar Bergman's most existe works, and was the film that professionally and artistically became the turning point in Bergman's career. He had directed films since his film Torment in 1944, and Summer with Monika in 1953 but none of his early works were commercial hits. Bergman was financed through the Swedish Film Institute, and the institute took a risk with Smiles of a summer Night and it costed 100,000 to make which was said to be the most expensive Swedish film at that time. Bergman finally found the right ingredients to make not only a great film but a successful one, and thie comedic ingredient was something he surprisingly never returned to again.
Audiences either didn't understand or enjoy Bergman's bleak existential chamber dramas before this, but when audiences watched Smiles of a Summer Night, they accepted it with a welcome open arms. This 'comedy of manners' became such an international and commercial success winning several European film awards including Best Poetic Humor award at the Cannes Film Festival. Bergman stated that after Smiles of a Summer Night, he never again had to scramble for financing, and he was given the artistic freedom to make any film that be pleased. In 1957 Bergman released two films that are not only considered his best but became benchmarks in art film history.
He released The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries, and this was his mark of his coming of age as an artist and it gained his position as a world-class director and one of the great cinematic artists. But Smiles of a Summer Night was the turning point in Bergman's life and it is also one of his most comedic and entertaining films. Stanley Kauffmann called Smiles of a Summer Night, "a comedy more barbed than funny" as many of its themes play against darker themes of depression and despair which dwelled over its characters. The terms 'tragic' and 'plot' are two of the underlining ideas that are brought onto Bergman's comedy, as he wanted to create a story in which each woman will at first try to get with the wrong man, but later end up with the right one.
Similar to the bourgeoise comedy The Rules of the Game directed by the legendary Jean Renoir, which tells the story about several lovers taking a weekend to a country estate, almost every character in the film Smiles of a Summer Night throws out the word 'love' to one another but none of them truly mean it. Like Frid tells Petra near the end of the film, "We invoke love, call out to it, beg for it, cry for it, try to mimic it. We think we own it and tell lies about it. But we don't have it. We are denied the love of loving."
Smiles of a Summer Night and its continual changes with sexual partners echos the classic French sex comedy films from the stage, as Smiles of a Summer Night features some of the most beautiful actresses all in one film. Eva Dahlbeck is brilliant as the mature and experienced Desiree, a symbol of the ultimate woman desired by all men. She juggles married men like it's a profession and a theatrical game (Her character is pretty much summed up with her scripted speech when she is performing on stage.) Margit Carqivt is the neglected countess, fueling with bitterness and hatred against not only her own husband but the male race as a whole. She is proud, arrogant and a bitter countess, and her disturbing monologue to Anne in which she projects her hatred on her husband and of all men, is probably one of the darkest scenes of the film.
Ulla Jacobsson is the beautiful and innocent virgin whose womanhood is still in bud, and she is deeply hurt when realizing that her husband maybe having an affair. Harriet Andersson in one of her best performances, plays the sexy and saucy maid Petra who loves to flirt, tease and shake her hips around, and to me is the best part of the film. Desiree comforts the men that she considers her boy toys, Petra turns on their lust, with her sexuality, Anne arouses men because of her innocence, and Charlotte is the dangerous and truly conniving one. The men in the film are equally important, as they become great pawns in this chess game of love that Desiree elaborately comes up with, creating a game of the seduced vs the seducer.
Smiles of a Summer Night is more of a tragic comedy even though each character ends up with their perfect match. For instance, Anne who married at the early age of 16 eventually runs of his the repressed theologically student Henrik, and yet their innocence might be their downfall. Petra who was sexually bored with of Henrik, has finally met her match with the equally mature Frid, who isn't as serious on the idea of marriage as she is. Instead of being with the cocky and arrogant Malcolm, Desiree is better off with the more mellow and laid back Fredrik, (who she might or might not already have a child with.) The predatory Malcolm belongs with his intense wife, and as unstable as the two of them seem to be, with their relationship feeling hostile and slightly sadomasochistic; they are perfect for one another.
Critic John Simon mentions how humiliation is a large factor within the context of the film, in which almost every character will get humiliated at least once during the story, except for the conniving Desiree. Anne is humiliated when her husband mutter's another woman's name in bed, and when Charlotte reveals to her about her husband being chased out of Desiree's apartment in his underpants. Charlotte is humiliated by her brutal and faithless husband and is reduced to accepting infidelity as a common part of their marriage. Henrik is humiliated by his failed attempt at sex with Petra, and his embarrassing outburst at Desiree's mother's dinner table, and also his embarrassing and unsuccessful attempt at suicide, which was something he couldn't even carry out. Fredrik, besides his son seems to be the one who is humiliated the most within the story, especially when he is ordered out of Desiree's apartment in his underpants, (he's not even granted the Count's robe!) He is humiliated again when he watches his wife elope with his own son, and again in the end when he is tricked in playing Russian roulette with Malcolm, which leaves soot all over his face. The servants, Petra, Malla, Beata, and Frid are beneath being humiliated and never seem to get involved.
Erik Nordgren is the composer for Smiles of a Summer Night, and Bergman used him quite frequently for his films. The music bridges many of the scenes together and it influences rhythms with the structure of the story. There is singing in the film beyond the scene at the theater, in which Desiree, Frederik and her maid Malla are walking from the theater to Desiree's home, and Desiree starts to sing, "Rejoice in life while the little lamp still grows."
They're many recurring themes in most of Bergman's films, for instance the photographs of Fredrik's trophy wife Anne that Fredrik picks up in the beginning of the film are later brought back in the end when Desiree takes the photos and pockets them and clock sounds are a large part of Bergman films which establish the tone and mood of the story. The choreography is a large part of the film, as the fierce masochistic croquet game, and the Russian roulette that is played by the competitive males to prove their honor is an interesting parallel to the women plotting and scheming, using their sexuality and seducing powers to prove their honor.
Smiles of a Summer Night is a classic example of a theatrical sex comedy, and some of its brilliant and witty dialogue can be compared to the great works of the American screwball comedies of the 1930's. One of my favorite lines in the film is, "I can tolerate my wife's infidelity, but if anyone touches my mistress, I become a tiger!" (Malcolm says this and later repeats the joke, but the threat is reversed.) Smiles of a Summer Night is a tragicomedy that was made by the director's depression, which isn't really hard to believe when looking at the film closely and you can see many uncomical themes: Russian roulette, suicide attempts, marital affairs, sadomasochism abusive like marriages. Yes, the character's eventually end up with the best partners within that game of love, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are winners. Anne and Fredrik are the only character's who truly love one another but their innocence, and arrogance will eventually face them in the near future, especially when they face financial straits. Desiree won the man she originally wanted but that's only because his wife ran out and he decided to give up. Malcolm and Charlotte reconcile, but that's only because Malcolm's jealousy was provoked and his promise of never committing infidelity doesn't seem to be a hopeful promise. Even Petra who finally found the man she wants to marry has to force Frid into accepting her marriage engagement by pulling on his ears. It's hard to imagine Bergman writing such brilliant dialogue and yet people who knew the director best said he had a great sense of humor. And yet, within this comedy sparks some serious themes of despair and hatred, especially the scene with Charlotte and her bleak monologue on the hatred of men. "Men are horrible, vain and conceited. They have hair all over their bodies." That speech and that character is later reused in many other future Bergman films. Critic Pauline Kael considered Smiles of a Summer Night a nearly perfect film, and after seeing it again I can't really disagree. In 2005 the film was on Time magazine's 100 Movies list of the best movies of all time and the story of switching partners on a summer night has been adapted several times, most famously by the great director Woody Allen (who is a huge admirer of Bergman's) with his film A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy. The characters in Smiles of a Summer Night are reckless, selfish, and immoral and yet their agendas justify their actions no matter how immoral they seem to be. Smiles of a Summer Night is a film Bergman needed to make at the time of his life because it was the only way to express his own disgust and hatred for men, confront his past mistakes of infidelity which involved several of his failed marriages; and making this film was the best way for him to face it.