Notes on “Summer Interlude”

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:


A ballerina (Maj-Britt Nilsson), disappointed in love and aging out of dance, impulsively visits an island on which, as a teen, she spent a summer vacation. As she wanders, so does her mind; she remembers her first love and her first brush with death. All of writer-director Ingmar Bergman’s mature themes and concerns are present in the 1951 “Summer Interlude,” but he hasn’t yet grown icy, imperious, or gnomic. The art aspects of the movie are perhaps overdetermined (hey, it’s Bergman), but the handling is so assured, almost musical, and its themes so satisfyingly worked out within its structural and dramatic frameworks, that it’s just about irresistible. Its overcoming of your initial suspicions — of its conceptual heaviness, of the hoariness of its theatrical metaphors — becomes part of its effect and meaning. It’s the kind of work that makes you feel grateful for the mastery of its maker. Bergman’s control of the medium can catch you unawares. In an instant he can leap from sparkling Scandinavian naturalism to the Germanic gloom of the supernatural. (This, too, has a thematic as well as a formal significance.) A shot of a black-clad woman traversing a winter path has the oomph of Dreyer; it’s a vision drawn from another world. The ballerina’s acceptance of the reporter at the end of the film is hopeful (it’s not an unhappy ending — not exactly) yet it’s framed as a kind of death. She’s breaking with idealism as well as the ballet, and summer, in its truest form, will never come again outside of her memories. A scene in which the lights go out during a ballet performance anticipates the film melting in “Persona”; it’s Bergman’s way of equating aesthetic commitment with the will to live. (Art is life and life is sex and sex is never enough.) Is there more of Bergman in Stig Olin’s ballet master or Georg Funkquist’s spiritually rotten Uncle Erland? I suspect the latter. I admired a shot of the lovers’ hands playing above a bed. It’s a single-image distillation worthy of Godard. In fact, Godard may have borrowed it for “A Married Woman.”

About Fabrizio del Wrongo

Recovering liberal arts major. Unrepentant movie nut. Aspiring boozehound.
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