A summer night smiles three times. Once each for the follies of youth, the follies of the middle aged and the third, the follies of the elderly. This is the premise of the movie, Smiles of a Summer Night.Credit: Criterion Collection
Smiles Of A Summer Night, also called Smiles On A Summers Night is a Swedish comedy written and directed in 1955 byIngmar Bergman. It won the Golden Palm at Cannes in 1956 and became Bergman’s first international hit. It is written with a nod to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Bergman was known in Sweden for his movies as well as for directing plays and opera. At first glance it is unusual because Bergman is famous for directing such stark and bleak dramas such as The Seventh Seal, Scenes From A Marriage and Cries and Whispers. This comedy is delightfully funny and named as one of Time magazines 100 best movies of all time, and among the funniest comedies.
The movie is set at the dawn of the 20th century and concerns Fredrik Egerman, a middle-aged man who is married to a nineteen-year-old virgin. He also has an adult son from his first marriage. Egerman has been married for two years, but unable to consummate the marriage because of his wife’s hesitation.
Egerman meets an old flame, the actress Desiree Armfeldt who invites Egerman and his wife, son and servants to Desiree’s grandmothers summer home for a weekend in the country. There it becomes an erotic comedy of switching partners and lovers.
The Second Iteration
In 1973 Smiles Of A Summer Night became A Little Night Music, a musical play written by Steven Sondheim, Hugh Wheeler and Harold Prince.
The play’s plot follows the movie with the addition of Steven Sondheim music. Send in the Clowns is perhaps the most well known song from the play. It sets the mood perfectly and conveys the tone of the story, and inspired by lines from the movie.
The Third Iteration
Woody Allen’s 1982 movie, A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, is the third version of Smiles of a Summer Night. Allen’s film somewhat uses the concept of the original, but relocated. The original material is easily recognizable in Allen’s movie.Credit: Warner Brothers and Orion Pictures
The Forth Iteration
The forth version of Bergman’s movie is a movie of the play A Little Night Music. This version stars Elizabeth Taylor in one of her last roles as the actress, Desiree. The movie is faithful to the play and Sondheim’s music fits the story.Credit: New World Pictures, Sasha Films
The humor from Smiles Of A Summer Night is witty and barbed. Bergman styled it after plays written in the 18th century. Smiles Of A Summer Night is best summed up by the Pauline Kael quote about the movie, “that the step between the sublime and the ridiculous in love is a short one.”