SUMMER INTERLUDE (Ingmar Bergman, 1951)

In Ingmar Bergman’s first outstanding film, Summer Interlude, Marie (Maj-Britt Nilson, superb) is a ballerina who, after the death years ago of her lover, Henrik, withdrew behind a “protective wall” that imprisoned her. The discovery of the boy’s diary returns her to the island where they fell in love one summer and compels her to take stock of the course of her life. Hanging in the balance is her current relationship with a newspaper reporter.
     Bergman’s camera describes three worlds. One, outdoors on the island, is full of Nature’s exquisite beauty, correlative to the passion of young love, with its intimations of immortality. Another, indoors, is austere, correlative to the rigor of ballet—exercises, rehearsals, performance. Ballerinas’ spins are like the pounding of a heart, the beating of a clock; everything is measured against time. The third, mediating between the other two, is a space of imagination—in a wing of the theater during performance, and in the empty theater afterwards, especially in the make-up room. This world is haunted by ghosts; it is a place of memories, grief and regret—and guilt, for during their last encounter Marie had been unable to reassure Henrik they would meet again.
     Summer Interlude is rippled with mystery, such as when, walking to the cottage she and Henrik once shared, Marie finds herself behind an elderly woman, who turns for a second to face her: an image of herself haunting the island far into the future, perhaps, unless she can resolve her life’s current stalemate. During a performance, Marie steals a second in the wings to kiss her new boyfriend. The camera is on her feet as her ballet slippers miraculously stretch upwards, landing her on her toes—the renewal of hope and romantic aspiration in a too-long loveless life.

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