Starring: Ulla Jacobson, Eva Dahlbeck, Harriet Andersson
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Running Time: 108 mins
Smiles Of A Summer Night (Sommarnattens leende) is a Swedish film about a group of couples who, on one summer evening, find themselves caught in a complicated web of love, each of them having eyes for somebody else.
Ingmar Bergman? Romantic comedy? As strange as it seems when you first hear it, this is indeed a romantic comedy from the legendarily philosophical director. Bergman has absolutely been known to use dry humour to great effect in his most dramatic of works, but this is a whole different kettle of fish, and one that works only up to a point.
While the film is of course easier to watch than some of Bergman’s later classics (The Seventh Seal, Persona), Smiles Of A Summer Night isn’t the purely simple romp that you may hoping for. There is something rather pleasing about it simplicity – a group of characters all seem to be in love with someone other than the person they’re currently with – but Bergman always has a trick up his sleeve.
Impressively directing an ensemble cast full of personalities, Bergman captures a fluffy, easy-going romantic comedy story in eye-catching fashion, and brings out so much in a group of characters that could have easily been defined by single traits and throwaway dialogue.
From the assured-on-the-outside and nervous-on-the-inside lawyer (Gunnar Björnstrand) to the cheeky maid (Harriet Andersson), the frustrated son (Björn Bjelfvenstam), the scheming mistress (Eva Dahlbeck) and everybody in between, it’s rather impressive how much Bergman gets out of so many characters, and in a fairly short space of time too.
With so much chemistry between the leads and all manner of romantic chaos unfolding between them, it’s entertaining to watch Smiles Of A Summer Night like some kind of Agatha Christie story. There’s no mystery to be solved, but there’s a lot going on wherever you look, and it’s always deserving of a chuckle or two.
However, while there’s more than enough to occupy you throughout Smiles Of A Summer Night, it’s never the most hilarious film. The slower pacing and very forward dialogue often does away with the potential for a frantic comedy of errors, and as such the film never has that charmingly simple, silly streak that could have made it even more fun to watch. So, that’s why I’m giving Smiles Of A Summer Night a 7.4 overall.