Repertory Picks

A Love Roundelay in Des Moines

On Film / In Theaters — May 18, 2017

Tonight, summertime comes early to Des Moines, as the city’s Fleur Cinema presents a free screening of Ingmar Bergman’s 1955 Smiles of a Summer Night. After a succession of box-office failures, and facing romantic and financial turmoil in his personal life, Bergman persevered through a spell of depression by commencing work on this erotic comedy set at the turn of the century—a film that would become a success not only in Sweden but also abroad, finally earning the auteur, who by that point had already directed fifteen features, an international audience. Both gently wistful and sharply witty, Smiles sets in motion an intricate plot involving intrigues of the heart among a gaggle of eight men and women (played by a stellar cast that includes frequent Bergman collaborators Gunnar Björnstrand and Harriet Andersson), their transgressions and unrequited longings coming to a head as they all wind up spending a weekend together in the country. “In Smiles of a Summer Night, boudoir farce becomes lyric poetry,” wrote Pauline Kael in her 1961 review, a piece included in the liner notes of our edition. “The film becomes an elegy to transient love: a gust of wind and the whole vision may drift away.”