BTXI 1951: Summer Interlude

Summer Interlude (Sommarlek). Ingmar Bergman. 1951. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐★.

Oh, right. This film was done before the horrible This Can’t Happen Here, but wasn’t released until a year after due to a strike and economic problems with the film studio.

They’re extremely different films: While This Can’t Happen Here is probably the worst film Bergman ever did (I’m hoping; he tried to have it banned from ever being shown again), Summer Interlude is probably considered Bergman’s first really successful film.

It’s cute and funny and really just kinda works. The characters are a bit confusing, though: “Why are these 30-year-olds acting so strangely?” Then you realise that the characters are supposed to be, like, 17 instead. (Well, in the middle part of the film.)

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.

BTX 1950: This Can’t Happen Here

This Can’t Happen Here (Sånt händer inte här). Ingmar Bergman. 1950. ⭐★★★★★.

This is a movie that apparently has never gotten a DVD release? I had to source it from teh torrentz, and it looks like it has its origin in a VHS copy. Perhaps it was shown on TV at one point?

It’s a thriller based on a Norwegian novel, apparently made just because the producers had gotten a subsidy to create a film for an international audience (so it was filmed both in Swedish and English).

Bergman tried to have the production halted after a few days of shooting.

This is what Bergman said about it: “Few of my films do I feel ashamed of or detest for various reasons. This can’t happen here was the first one; I completed it accomained by violent inner opposition. The other is The Touch. Both mark the very bottom of me. My publishment did not fail to come from the outside as well. This can’t happen here opened in the fall of 1950 and was regarded as a fiasco.”

The critics didn’t know whether it was supposed to be a parody or not.

It’s bad. Some of the shots look rather good, but it’s just tedious.

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.

BTIX 1950: To Joy

To Joy (Till glädje). Ingmar Bergman. 1950. ⭐⭐⭐⭐★★.

This is Bergman’s second writer/director credit, and it couldn’t be more different from his first one, Prison. As the title suggests, it’s basically a happy and nostalgic film, where the protagonist is an obvious and hapless stand-in for Bergman himself. It’s pretty funny. Bergman is pretty savage in his takedown of himself.

I like the long scenes from the orchestra rehearsals.

The critics were savage. “Bergman, according to Schein, gave his films “the necessary stamp of tendentious realism” courtesy of “violence towards women, talk of abortions, empty brandy bottles and the line ‘Bloody hell, I like you’ instead of ‘I love you’.”

And this: “Not forgetting the peculiar phenomenon that Bergman, in the country with fewer prostitutes per capita than any other in the world, manages to put a whore in every film.”

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.

BTVIII 1949: Thirst

Thirst (Törst). Ingmar Bergman. 1949. ⭐⭐⭐⭐★★.

After the brilliant Prison completely bombed at the box office, Bergman is back to directing another movie written by somebody else. A bundle of actors from his previous film reappears here, though.

It’s a surprisingly vigorous and amusing film: Bergman isn’t sulking after the less than stellar reception of his last movie. It doesn’t shy much away from its origin as a short story collection, either.

Definitely the best Bergman-not-written-by-Bergman film so far.

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.

BTVII 1949: Prison

Prison (Fängelse). Ingmar Bergman. 1949. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐★.

Finally! A real Bergman film. This is the first of his films that’s both written (not based on a book/play) and directed by Bergman, and we basically get all his obsessions on a plate: Religion, injustice, evil, making movies, symbolism, Fraudianism, watching old movies. It’s the first of these films I think basically anybody would be able to watch a snippet of and then say “yup, Bergman”.

The cinematographer, Göran Strindberg, had done a lot of Bergman’s previous movies, but this has a completely different and confident look.

The dialogue is so Bergman! I love it.

Hm… Oh, the story behind the production is fascinating. He was given free rains to make this “artistic” film if he promised to make it as cheaply as possible, and only came in 40% over the minuscule budget. And didn’t get a salary himself.

The only thing that stops this from being absolutely brilliant is that Bergman still doesn’t have the right troupe of actors assembled: Birger Malmsten is still pretty hapless. But it’s mostly super-fresh and some scenes hints at the direction of European cinema for the next twenty years.

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.

BTVI 1948: Port of Call

Port of Call (Hamnstad). Ingmar Bergman. 1948. ⭐⭐⭐⭐★★.

Oh, it’s Bergman’s 100th birthday this year, so there’s supposed to be a bunch of retrospectives, re-releases and documentaries this year. I had no idea when I embarked upon my Bergmania…

Anyway, this is a very strangely edited film. It’s like if the editor is off by a few frames every cut. Things judder and shiver.

Bergman says in interviews about this film that he was basically riffing on Rossellini and Italian neo-realism in this film, and it’s quite different from his earlier movies. The people do seem more realistic than his earlier attempts, and I don’t think it features any of the actors that he usually uses?

The evil mother and the evil social worker are pretty tiresome cliches. There are some good scenes in here, but also some pretty bad ones (like the one where Our Hero gets drunk).

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.

BTV 1948: Music in Darkness

Music in Darkness (Musik i mörker). Ingmar Bergman. 1948. ⭐⭐⭐⭐★★.

Once again, Birger Malmsten stars, and like Lorens Marmstedt allegedly adviced Bergman two movies ago, “You have to remember that Birger Malmsten is no Jean Gabin”. He still isn’t, but he’s perfectly nice if somewhat uninspiring. (I just had a peek at Bergmans filmography, and it looks like Malmsten is going to star in an ungodly number of Bergman’s films.)

Gunnar Björnstrand pops up again, but Bergman had yet to establish his stable of, er, stable actors.

Once again, Bergman adapts a melodrama based on an existing work. The previous two films were based on plays, but this one is based on a novel, which you would assume would give Bergman a wider range of possibilities. And this one is less like a filmed play, but it’s still pretty uninteresting.

As usual for this time period, just watching the actors is pretty entertaining, especially Mai Zetterling, Björnstrand and Naima Wifstrand (who would go on to appear in half a dozen more Bergman films).

Bergman sure likes having his female actors running around naked. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

(*cough* Weinstein *cough*)

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.