Summer Interlude is Bergman’s first great film, and a great entry point into the auteur’s extensive body of work.
When discussing Ingmar Bergman, the enigmatic filmmaker who crafted more than 40 films over his lifetime, two questions inevitably emerge: first, what were his great films? Fellini had La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2, Welles had Citizen Kane, Kurosawa had Seven Samurai and Yojimbo, Ford had The Searchers…so on, so forth, ad infinitum. And yet, heralded as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, what was Bergman’s magnum opus? His most popular films – Smiles of a Summer Night, Seventh Seal, and Wild Strawberries – could all make claim for that title, but none seem particularly representative of his oeuvre, which consisted mostly of intensely personal character studies.
The second question, just as debated, is what the most “accessible Bergman” could be; the elusive and difficult nature of many of his films can be intimidating for the uninitiated, and finding a film that both represents what people love about Bergman and also palatable to a more general audience is useful in bringing newcomers into the fold. To that question, I’m going to go out on a limb, buck traditional suggestions, and give my vote to Summer Interlude. It’s a perfect blend of dark character drama and lighthearted love story, which gives the film a balance that keeps it from feeling overwhelming or heavy-handed; it’s also a fascinating story, masterfully executed, and beautifully filmed.