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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

To every man his calling

Smiles of a Summer Night (1955) on IMDb

Plot Overview

In late nineteenth century Sweden, prosperous fifty-year-old lawyer Fredrik Egerman (Gunnar Björn­strand) has been married to beautiful nineteen-year-old Anne (Ulla Jacobs­son) for over two years with­out consum­mating their union … he's waiting until she is ready. Fredrik's 20–some­thing son Henrik (Björn Bjelfvenstam) from an earlier marriage (his mom's now deceased) is preparing to enter the ministry (“The boy is entering the church”) putting up a heroic struggle against the flesh, exacer­bated by the proximity of the nubile new mom and of saucy teen­age maid Petra (Hariett Anders­son). Mean­while, daddy Fredrik maintains a friend­ship with his former paramour Desiree Armfeldt (Eva Dahlbeck) who broke off with him for courting too slow. Now there's a boy Fredrik who's part of the equation, too. Desiree her­self has a new lover Count Carl-Magnus (Jarl Kulle) who's militantly jealous over Fredrik's implicit attentions. When one summer night Desiree's dotty mother Mrs. Armfeldt (Naima Wifstrand) throws a grand soiree inviting them all and spiking the wine, Count Carl's mistress Desiree and his old lady Charlotte (Margit Carlquist) put aside their differences to hatch a sneaky plan to reformulate some of the couples before they leave.


There is a hidden Presence at work behind the scenes along the lines of, (Psalm 74:16-17) “The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun. Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter,” to effect rearrange­ments along the lines of, (Psalm 74:21-22) “O let not the oppressed return ashamed: let the poor and needy praise thy name. Arise, O God, plead thine own cause.” There is a little known, little under­stood form of marriage the Bible­—the apostle Paul­—talks about called alter­nately either spiritual betrothal or virgin marriage. Practically speaking, only the King James Version (KJV), in English, even translates it correctly. From historian Johannes Weiss,

    In other cases continence or the institution of spiritual betrothals or virgin marriages was recommended. These questions Paul answered in detail in an essay on marriage in which each problem was carefully discussed. … The discussion of spiritual betrothals or virgin marriages occupies a great deal of space (1Cor. 7:25-28, 1Cor. 7:36-38). Here, too, he is sufficiently broad-minded and practical to dissuade from anything unnatural and over­strained, and in a case where this difficult relation­ship for one reason or another cannot be carried out, to recommend marriage either with one another or with another, and this in spite of the high opinion which he else­where expresses in favor of self-chosen virginity. (Weiss, 330f)

Orthodox priest Fr Lubliner tells me virgin marriage was common—especially in the East—when celibacy was all the rage, back in the days of the apostles. Fredrik and Anne Egerman have a de facto virgin marriage, so the options above would be available to them, as far as God is concerned. Fredrik would probably want to be involved in the life of little Fredrik, but Desiree is for now keeping the tyke at a distance—she has her own sources of income as a famous actress. The countess is putting up with the philandering of the count, and it is hoped he could mend his ways. Petra is too sexually available to easily fit into a domestic servant role where men are about.

Sweden being a socialist country, they are always in the process of reformulating their society, and in some respects through this movie it can bleed over into life even here in America. Henrik has taken to quoting church reformer Martin Luther, from his studies. That reminds one of Martin Luther's feelings on separation of church and state. They're described by theology Prof. Roland H. Bainton:

    The natural man, when not involved for him­self, has enough integrity and insight to administer the state in accord with justice, equity, and even magnanimity. These are the civil virtues. But the church inculcates humility, patience, long-suffering, and charity—the Christian virtues—attain­able even approxi­mately only by those endowed with grace, and conse­quently not to be expected from the masses. That is why society cannot be ruled by the gospel. And that is why theocracy is out of the question. …

These distinctions all point in the direction of separation of church and state. But on the other hand Luther did not split God and did not split man. And if he did not contem­plate a Christianized society, he was not resigned to a secu­lar­ized culture. … [W]here Church and state are allied, one always domin­ates, and the out­come is either theocracy or caesaro­papism. (Bainton, 188)

Sweden has long since been secularized, the Church but a vestige. America is more religious, and the alliance between church and state in formulating marriage has recently been disrupted to the point where through judicial fiat marriages between same-sex partners have been allowed though they're still contrary to church doctrine. This caesaro­papism forces Christian businessmen, say, who market wedding cakes, flowers & photos to participate in the mummery of same-sex weddings, though of course, they are still free to disagree. “Smiles of a Summer Night” offers more grist for the mill.

Anne says of her single life, “I was domestic and always cheerful.” Fredrik says, “You made me cheerful, too.” Malla (Gull Natorp), Desiree's aged servant, says, “There's a time for gaiety and a time for gravity.” King Solomon in scripture advised a man to, (Eccl. 9:9) “Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of thy life.” Such a gay marriage Christians are allowed, it's even recommended.

There's another kind this movie showcases. Gay back in 1956 could mean licentious and today still means stupid. Count Carl Magnus says, “I have fought 18 duels. Pistol, rapier, foil, spear, bow, poison, rifle. I have been wounded six times.” That's stupid and we might call it, oh, so gay. Further­more, he will duel over his wife, “If anyone touches my wife, I become a tiger.” That makes it a gay marriage in that it makes him stupid. Duelling depending on jurisdiction is some­times illegal, too. Lots of stupid things are both stupid and illegal.

Because the word gay is ambiguous having different senses, the wise courts will not legalize gay marriage per se, but same-sex marriage. That leaves us free to not use the dyad "gay marriage" as a synonym for unions between two of the same sex. There's no legal compulsion for us to do so, in fact we are encouraged to express our individual beliefs, as I choose to do so per the two suggestions in this movie. As I said, grist for the mill.

Production Values

Smiles of a Summer Night” (1955) (“Sommarnattens leende”) was written and directed by Swedish film­maker Ingmar Bergman. It stars Ulla Jacobs­son, Eva Dahl­beck, and Harriet Anders­son. Brilliant acting was done by Swedish actors Gunnar Björn­strand, Jarl Kulle & Björn Bjelfven­stam, and by Swedish actresses Harriet Anders­son, Margit Carlqvist, Ulla Jacobs­son, Bibi Anders­son & Eva Dahl­beck. The four female leads – Dahlbeck, Jacobsson, Andersson and Carlqvist – were absolutely beautiful. There have been two attempts at a remake, one by Stephen Sondheim as a musical, “A Little Night Music,” and one by Woody Allen as a charming farce, “A Mid­summer Night's Sex Comedy.”

Movies in 1956 weren't rated; they were restrained, but bearing in mind it originated in Sweden, I'd lump it in with the PG ones for its constant innuendo and one fright scene. Director Ingmar Bergman was an atheist since age eight. He was the son of a Lutheran minister who was chaplain to the king of Sweden. Bergman had there­fore a strict upbringing but was released by an accidental over­dose of anesthesia during a minor operation, which effected a kind of let-go epiphany. From that crucible, who knows where his creative mind will take us? He was married six times and had numerous affairs as well.

This film is Black & White with a boxy aspect ratio of 1.37 : 1. It's 108 minutes long, 105 min. in the 2001 DVD release. It features magnifi­cent art direction and beautiful cinema­tog­raphy. The camera work by Gunnar Fischer is over the top. The whites in the interior scenes seem to emit a soft light. It's got a good musical score by Swedish composer Erik Nord­gren.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

I found this movie engrossing and easy to follow. It reminded me of Shakespeare, only in Swedish w/subtitles. Lots of actors shared the stage, each evoking either sympathy or revulsion. It's worth one's time to see it.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action. Suitability for children: Suitable for children as age appropriate. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: Four stars out of four.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the Authorized King James Version, pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Bainton, Roland H. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. Nash­ville: Abingdon Press, 1955. Print.

Lubliner, Fr David of Saint John the Wonderworker Serbian Orthodox Church, Eugene, OR, USA. In person interview on marriage.

Weiss, Johannes. Earliest Christianity: A History of the Period A.D. 30–150, Vol. I. New York: Harper Brothers, 1959. This translation of Das Urchristentum was originally published in 1937 under the title The History of Primitive Christianity. Print.