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The film deals with the innocence of first love and the transition from youth to adulthood, two of the director-screenwriter's favorite themes, and ones that he would revisit in later works. When Marie (Maj-Britt Nilsson), a prima ballerina, receives an old lover's diary after his death in a tragic accident, she begins to reminisce about the happy summer she spent with Henrik (Birger Malmsten), her first love, on an island near Stockholm. A flashback shows the young couple in a playful, carefree light, full of energy and grace. Since parting from Henrik, Maria has emerged as a sucessful dancer with many admirers and a new suitor, the journalist David Nystrom (Alf Kjellin). But she is dissatisfied with her present life and unable to forget the ardent love she experienced that one fateful summer long ago.
For more about Summer Interlude and the Summer Interlude Blu-ray release, see Summer Interlude Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on June 1, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Maj-Britt Nilsson, Birger Malmsten, Alf Kjellin, Annalisa Ericson, Mimi Pollak, Georg Funkquist
Director: Ingmar Bergman
» See full cast & crew
Summer Interlude Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 1, 2012
Ingmar Bergman's "Sommarlek" a.k.a "Summer Interlude" (1951) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. There are no supplemental features included on this release. However, the disc arrives with a 16-page illustrated booklet featuring Peter Cowie's essay "Love and Death in the Swedish Summer". In Swedish, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Ingmar Bergman's tenth film is about a young and beautiful ballerina in her late twenties named Marie (Maj-Britt Nilsson, Swedish Girl, Heritage of Bjorndal), who remembers a man she once fell in love with but could not keep.
The film opens up with Marie receiving a package containing a diary. She is so moved by its emergence that shortly after decides to take a trip to the archipelago near Stockholm where she first met Henrik (Birger Malmsten, Eva, Masculin Féminin).
Unlike Marie, the place hasn't changed much - it is still peaceful and perhaps a bit lonely, just like it was when Marie first met Henrik. Marie wasn't aware then, but now she knows that this was the one and only time when she was truly happy.
As Marie remembers Henrik the film moves back and forth and shows how her life has changed. As a ballerina, Marie has accomplished everything she ever wanted – she has had the roles she dreamed about; amongst her colleagues she is respected and admired; her friends genuinely like her. Her life, one would think, has been a success story.
But the truth is different. After Henrik, Marie could not love again. Her career would keep her mind busy and for a while she would forget about the pain, but it would also keep her away from other men who could have loved her, perhaps like Henrik did.
While wandering around the beautiful island where Henrik first held her in his arms, Marie begins to wonder whether it was worth living as she did. She also recalls how she isolated herself and focused on her career, trying to convince herself that alone she could still be happy.
This early film by the legendary Swedish master does not have the depth of his later works, but it is nevertheless remarkably well done. It focuses on the nostalgia that grips the heart after a loved one is lost and the pain that inevitably comes with it. Bergman completed the film in 1951, after he apparently spent a couple of years working on adapting a short story he wrote about a girl he once fell in love with.
The film is completely free of sentimentality. As Marie recalls her relationship with Henrik, the viewer can easily understand exactly how she feels and why. The young Marie is energetic and optimistic but also quite naïve. Part of her wants to be a grown-up and be loved like a woman, but part of her still wants to be a girl, playing games and simply being free. The older Marie is smart and confident, but also disillusioned and attached to her career. There is a new man in her life now and she knows how to communicate with him, but their love is different.
The film is beautifully photographed by Gunnar Fischer, who also worked with Bergman on such films as Port of Call (1948), Smiles of a Summer Night (1955), The Seventh Seal (1957), Wild Strawberries (1957), and The Magician (1958). Fischer effectively captures the serene beauty of the island and through a series of wonderful close-ups of Marie's face allows the viewer to understand the feelings and emotions she struggles with.
Note: The famous French director and critic Jean-Luc Godard once described Summer Interlude as "the most beautiful of films."
Summer Interlude Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Ingmar Bergman's Summer Interlude arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
Considering the fact that the original negative for Summer Interlude has been lost and that the new high-definition transfer was struck from a reconstruction of 35mm duplicate negative sources, the final result is indeed very impressive. Most close-ups convey enormously pleasing depth (see scnreecapture #5), while the panoramic vistas from the island boast excellent fluidity (see screencapture #2). Viewers with large screens (100'+) should also be especially pleased with the stability of the image, as there are no warps or shimmer to report in this review. Also, a steady dose of well resolved grain has been retained throughout the entire film. There are only a few selected scenes where inherited softness is noticeable. Furthermore, there are no traces of problematic sharpening corrections or contrast boosting. Problematic banding and aliasing patterns are not visible either. Unsurprisingly, despite the few minor fluctuations noted above, the film does have a very strong organic look. Lastly, I would like to quickly mention that a few small scratches and lines have been retained as current digital tools could not fully remove them (see screencapture #19), but they are indeed incredibly easy to tolerate. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Summer Interlude Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: Swedish LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm optical soundtrack print. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation."
There are no serious issues to address in the audio department. The lossless audio is stable and provides the film with the depth it needs. The dialog is crisp, clean, and easy to follow. Also, there are no high-frequency distortions or audio dropouts to report in this review. The English translation is excellent.
Summer Interlude Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Summer Interlude Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
There is a good reason why Jean-Luc Godard once described Summer Interlude as "the most beautiful of films" - it truly is a stunning piece of cinema. I personally prefer its simplicity over the more challenging nature of Ingmar Bergman's later films. It is the kind of pure film that a mature director cannot direct, because as one grows older one learns how to hide certain feelings and emotions. Summer Interlude was directed by a young director who had experienced something special and wanted to preserve it. As usual, Criterion's presentation is excellent. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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