- “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” from Shakespeare is the inspiration for Ingmar Bergman here- but so too is Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game (1939) as members of the upper class and their servants chase each other around (gathered in one house for much of the running time) in equal fits of lust, romance, and jealousy.
- Bergman is still vacillating between comedy and drama here during this period in his career and trying to show off his range. Though not often remembered amongst his best films overall, Smiles of a Summer Night is often cited (along with pieces of Fanny and Alexander) as his greatest success in comedy. This is sophisticated philandering and wordplay- a comedy of the bedroom, lovers, mistresses and sex. Bergman sort of forgoes the clever circumventing of Hollywood’s screwball comedy—but this is still witty in parts and impeccably written in others. Lubitsch has to be mentioned as an influence as well.
- Gunnar Björnstrand plays an arrogant lawyer Fredrik Egerman who mistakenly says the name of a former love in bed with his wife.
- Playful music throughout- the harp
- a strong tracking shot off the water early in the film
- Harriet Andersson as Petra the maid- “swaying her hips” as the text says. This is the first archiveable film for Bibi Andersson (no relation to Harriet) and her first with Bergman. She would become one of the most renowned of the Bergman trope of actors moving forward.
- “Summer is here- weather is beautiful”- very fun and frothy.
a dedication to multiple fields of depth
Bergman’s trademark pinpoint staging composition between couples lying down next to each other at the 8-minute mark with Gunnar and his wife in bed- this shot would be used more than a half-century later in something like Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story (2019).
- Desiree (Eva Dahlbeck) foreground right with her mother in the background on the left at the 48-mintute mark.
- There was no one film that pushed Bergman to international stardom- but a series of films and successes (often for varying reasons)- Smiles of a Summer Night was a breakthrough though and Bergman created quite a buzz at Cannes.
- The harp is used again as a montage accompanies it with partygoers drinking wine.
A sublime composition at the 85-minute mark with the six figures posing for a cinematic paining with the harp in the foreground left.
- It is not all laughs- some Bergmanisms see their way through the shift in tone and genre—the count calls Fredrik a “parasite”- a character attempts suicide- existential and spiritual crisis (as he loves his stepmother who is his age).
- Four couples- and eventually after some bed-swapping they do seem happy in the end.
- The film inspired Bergman acolyte Woody Allen’s 1982 film A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy and it may be at least a little strange that even though Woody is a talented comedian (and Bergman is not)- that Bergman’s work is much stronger.
- Highly Recommend—Bergman is clearly a talent at this stage in his career- but not sure there is a real indication yet of the artistic thump of something like The Seventh Seal yet to come from him- and this already is his sixteenth (16th) feature.