Home Video Hovel- Summer Interlude, by Aaron Pinkston
I think the people at the Criterion Collection really dig Ingmar Bergman. With 22 feature films in the collection (plus two films made about him), the epic DVD company fully displays his importance to film history. They have released so many of his films they have literally started running out of them. Summer Interlude is a Bergman film most probably haven’t seen — given its mere 60 ratings on Netflix, just over a thousand on IMDb — the film previously unreleased in the US on DVD and Blu-Ray is finally given a chance.
Though it has a pleasant-sounding title, Summer Interlude is an often bitter, melancholy film centering around a romantic tryst gone bad. The film opens during a rehearsal of the ballet “Swan Lake.” Being a veteran stage director, Bergman masterfully shoots these opening scenes with wonderful choreography and backstage drama. Our focus is on Marie (Maj-Britt Nilsson), a successful ballerina, described as 28 with the face of a 40-year-old. She is clearly emotionally dead and the majority of the film, told in a flashback, tells us how she became this way.
I’ve seen a handful of Bergman’s films and I don’t recall any of them based on the romance of two young people. In a lot of ways, the story feels much more like a French film from Jean Renoir or even Robert Bresson — being both realistic and lyrical in its portrayal of young love. It may not be the type of story Bergman most enjoys telling, but the middle of the film is sweet and engaging. Marie and her love spend the summer idly chatting about the existential crisis of being young (it may be more romantic, but it’s still Bergman). One reason Summer Interlude may not be held in the upper echelon of Bergman’s films may be because it doesn’t feature any of the stars he helped create. Still, Maj-Britt Nilsson and Birger Malmsten have really nice chemistry and successfully portray the youthful innocence that must contrast with the older Marie.
Nilsson is especially good in the film’s third act, which focuses again on Marie in the present, preparing to perform “Swan Lake.” After a horrific accident, Marie’s youth is lost. Though she is an absolute shell of the bright young woman she once was, we learn that she is in a relationship — one as unsuccessful as we can imagine. Her new Beau, David, seems pretty similar to her past love, as both are serious, a bit offhanded. Perhaps their similar nature has damaged Marie even more, reminding her that her simpler, lighter life is far gone. It is a wonderful psychological study and performance to match.
Summer Interlude may not be the definitive Bergman, but it’s worth a look. There may not be the philosophical depth of The Seventh Seal or Wild Strawberries, but Summer Interlude explores many of Bergman’s themes in a simpler form. The film also has the trademark look of the master filmmaker, with beautiful black-and-white cinematography.
Though the Criterion Collection is well known for its depth of features given to each and every film it releases, the Blu-Ray edition of Summer Interlude is one of its few “bare-bones” titles. Probably because of its rare presence and minor nature, there must not be a lot of existing video work on the film, and so Criterion is pleased enough just to gives us the opportunity to see it. And for the lack of special features, the price is adjusted, making it one of the cheaper releases — the Blu-Ray can be found on Amazon for under $20. Still, as always, the presentation of the Blu-Ray packaging, booklet and film transfer are top notch. Any Bergman or Criterion fan should pick it up.