Summer Interlude

Summer Interlude
Summer Interlude (Sommarlek) -1951 film.jpg
Original poster
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Screenplay by Ingmar Bergman
Herbert Grevenius
Based on "Mari" by Ingmar Bergman
Produced by Allan Ekelund
Starring Maj-Britt Nilsson
Birger Malmsten
Cinematography Gunnar Fischer
Edited by Oscar Rosander
Music by Erik Nordgren
Release date
  • 1 October 1951 (1951-10-01)
Running time
96 minutes
Country Sweden
Language Swedish
Budget SEK 434,000

Summer Interlude (Swedish: Sommarlek), originally titled Illicit Interlude in the United States, is a 1951 Swedish drama film co-written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. The film opened to highly positive reviews from critics.


Marie (Nilsson) is a successful but emotionally distant prima ballerina in her late twenties. During a problem-filled dress rehearsal day for a production of the ballet Swan Lake she is unexpectedly sent the diary of her first love, Henrik (Malmsten), a college boy whom she met and fell in love with while visiting her Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle Erland's house on a summer vacation thirteen years before. With the cancellation of the dress rehearsal until the evening, Marie takes a boat across to the island where she conducted her relationship with Henrik and remembers their playful and carefree relationship.

Three days before the end of the summer when Henrik is to return to college and Marie to the theatre, Henrik falls and suffers injuries that result in his death after diving from a cliff face. Her Uncle Erland, not actually her relation but a friend and admirer of Marie's mother and now similarly smitten with Marie, takes her away for the winter and helps her to "put up a wall" to lessen the pain of losing her lover and effectively close her off emotionally. While visiting Erland's house she discovers that it was he who sent the diary to her at the theatre; he has had it ever since the day at the hospital when Henrik died from his injuries. She expresses regret and disgust that she ever allowed Erland to touch her, suggesting that he took advantage of her grief and they had an affair following Henrik's death.

Following the evening dress rehearsal, Marie talks with the ballet master, who recognises her single minded devotion to her dancing and understands her problems, and then to her current lover, a journalist called David, with whom she appears to be in the process of breaking up. Marie decides to let David read Henrik's diary and then open up to him about her past experiences in order to explain her conflicted feelings and emotional coldness. After he has left, she removes her make up and as she does so regains some of her lost youth and innocence, smiling again and pulling faces in the mirror. The film concludes during the successful first performance where we see Marie meeting David, now more understanding of Marie's past, in the wings. She happily kisses him and returns to the stage to finish the ballet.



The film was shot between 3 April and 18 June 1950 with Dalarö as a primary location. The animated sequence was made by Rune Andréasson, who would later become well known in Sweden for the cartoon Bamse.[1]

Themes and commentary

Many of Bergman's stylistic and conceptual themes were established in this early work, including the elegiac setting of summer (Smiles of a Summer Night); idyllic, youthful romance and the eventual loss of innocence (Summer with Monika); and a loss of faith in God (Winter Light). In one sequence, Henrik and Marie pick wild strawberries together. Additionally, Henrik's dying Aunt plays chess with a priest who states he visits her to better know death, which prefigures the famous chess match between a knight and Death himself in Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957). Visually there is also Bergman's use of fluid black and white cinematography coupled with slow crossfades.

Bergman said of his film in 1971, "I had always felt technically crippled—insecure with the crew, the cameras, the sound equipment—everything. Sometimes a film succeeded, but I never got what I wanted to get. But in Summer Interlude, I suddenly felt that I knew my profession." He wrote in the critical study Bergman on Bergman, "For me Summer Interlude is one of my most important films. Even though to an outsider it may seem terribly passé, for me it isn't. This was my first film in which I felt I was functioning independently, with a style of my own, making a film all my own, with a particular appearance of its own, which no one could ape. It was like no other film. It was all my own work. Suddenly I knew I was putting the camera on the right spot, getting the right results; that everything added up. For sentimental reasons, too, it was also fun making it."

Critical response

Summer Interlude received positive reviews by critics. A reviewer from Variety under the pen name 'Wing' wrote that the film "represents Swedish film-making at its best,"[2] noting the story "is much brighter than [Bergman] usually does," deviating from Bergman's style which was "usually filled with an influence of the hopelessness. He usually has the actors speaking words witch hardly would pass any censorship. But here he tells a simple story in a wholesome way," adding that the film "probably will have no censor trouble and may find a big foreign market." The reviewer also praised Gunnar Fischer's cinematography and the performances by Maj-Britt Nilsson, Birger Malmsten, Alf Kjellinin and Mimi Pollak."[3]

Stig Almqvist from Filmjournalen described the filmmaking method as "miraculous", writing that Bergman "belongs to a handful here and there in the world who are now discovering the future articulation of film, and the result can be revolutionary."[4]

In July 1958, Jean-Luc Godard wrote in Cahiers du Cinéma, "There are five or six films in the history of the cinema which one wants to review simply by saying, 'It is the most beautiful of films.' Because there can be no higher praise... I love Summer Interlude."[5] The film ranked 8th on Cahiers du Cinéma's Top 10 Films of the Year List in 1958.[6]

Pauline Kael from The New Yorker wrote:

Bergman found his style in this film, and it is regarded by cinema historians not only as his breakthrough but also as the beginning of 'a new, great epoch in Swedish films.' Many of the themes (whatever one thinks of them) that Bergman later expanded are here: the artists who have lost their identities, the faces that have become masks, the mirrors that reflect death at work. But this movie, with its rapturous yet ruined love affair, also has a lighter side: an elegiac grace and sweetness.[7][unreliable source?]

David Parkinson from Radio Times rated the film 4 out of 5 stars, highlighting Maj-Britt Nilsson's performance and the cinematography. He wrote that it "established Ingmar Bergman's international reputation. Although it still deals with the theme of young love that dominated his earliest films, it contains the first inklings of the dramatic intensity and structural complexity that would characterise his more mature work."[8]

Summer Interlude holds a rare 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and an average score of 7.75/10, based on 11 critics.[9]


  1. ^ "Summer Interlude - Shooting the film". Ingmar Bergman Face to Face. Ingmar Bergman Foundation. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  2. ^ Gray, Tim (22 June 2018). "Ingmar Bergman's Centennial: A Time to Celebrate Joy of Filmmaking". Variety. Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  3. ^ "Sommarlek". Variety. 184 (12). Los Angeles. 28 November 1951. p. 6. Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  4. ^ "Summer Interlude Reviews". Bergmanorama. Archived from the original on 7 March 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  5. ^ "Summer Interlude: Jean-Luc Godard". Bergmanorama. Archived from the original on 7 March 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  6. ^ Johnson, Eric C. "Cahiers du Cinema: Top Ten Lists 1951-2009". Archived from the original on 27 March 2012. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  7. ^ "Illicit Interlude". Kael Reviews. Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  8. ^ Parkinson, David. "Summer Interlude – review". Radio Times. Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  9. ^ Sommarlek (Summerplay) (Illicit Interlude) (Summer Interlude) at Rotten Tomatoes

External links