A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Friday, March 18, 2016

A Lesson in Love (Ingmar Bergman, 1954)

In A Lesson in Love, Ingmar Bergman seems to be trying to turn Eva Dahlbeck into Carole Lombard. She certainly has Lombard's blond glamour, and she makes a surprising go at knockabout comedy. But where Lombard had the light touch of a Howard Hawks or an Ernst Lubitsch to guide her in her best work, Dahlbeck is in the hands of Bergman, whose touch no one has ever called light. A year later, the Bergman-Dahlbeck collaboration would make a better impression with Smiles of a Summer Night, but A Lesson in Love sometimes verges on smirkiness in its treatment of the marriage of Marianne (Dahlbeck) and David Erneman (Gunnar Björnstrand). They are on the verge of divorce and she is about to marry her old flame Carl-Adam (Åke Grönberg), a sculptor for whom she once posed. David is a gynecologist who has had a series of flings with other women, including Susanne (Yvonne Lombard), with whom he is trying to break up. But Marianne has not exactly been faithful to their vows either. Meanwhile, we also get to know their children, Nix (Harriet Andersson) and her bratty little brother, Pelle (Göran Lundquist), and David's parents (Olof Winnerstrand and Renée Björling), who in sharp contrast to Marianne and David are celebrating 50 years of marriage. While Bergman sharply delineates all of these characters -- especially 15-year-old Nix, who hates being a girl so much that she asks her father if he can perform sex-change operations -- the semi-farcical situation he puts them has a kind of aimless quality to it. I appreciated Andersson's performance the more for having seen her as the dying Agnes in Cries and Whispers the night before, but in this film the role makes no clear thematic sense.