Thursday, 23 July 2009

SOMMARLEK/ Summer Interlude/ Illicit Interlude (1951)

I've had this early Ingmar Bergman in my collection for sometime without ever getting around to seeing it. What a mistake that was! It's a little gem and considered by many to be Ingmar's first great film. As I was drawn into the story it seems deceptively simple. A ballerina, aware of her advancing years, receives in the post a notebook which turns out to be a diary kept during one summer by her first lover. On a whim she takes the local ferry to the island where she spent her childhood and the scene of her romance with a young boy about to go to University.We see in flashback that idyllic summer and I thought this was a simple romance. But, of course, it is a Bergman film and soon dark storm clouds are gather in the shape of a lecherous uncle and a tragic swimming accident. I have commented more than once on this blog about the great Swedish director's love of the conventions of gothic horror and it is a tribute to his skill that as this film becomes darker there is a sequence that would not be out of place in any classic 1930's horror movie. It is brief, lasting probably less than a minute. The ballerina sits alone in the empty theatre at her dressing table, everybody else has gone. She hears a noise, she listens and then continues removing her makeup. The noise comes again. This time she goes to investigate. As she crosses the landing we see against the wall behind her a figure dressed in the costume of the sinister mad scientist Dr.Coppelius from the ballet "Coppelia". It is very short sequence but it is there (as all Bergman's "horror" sequences are) for a reason and leads us into one of the film's most important scenes. Performances are very good with Maj-britt Nillson superb as the girl - both the delightful teenager and the disillusioned adult dancer. Like most of the early Bergman films this ends with an almost life enhancing optimism that would later all but disappear as the director's own dark clouds began to appear. Rating ****


Terry Frost said...

Haven't seen this one yet but I love Smiles On A Summer Night.

Weaverman said...

It's not one I rushed to but I'm glad I got there eventually. Bergman, like Kurosawa, just gets higher in my estimation with each film I see.