A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Friday, March 18, 2016

A Lesson in Love (Ingmar Bergman, 1954)

Eva Dahlbeck and Gunnar Björnstrand in A Lesson in Love
Marianne Erneman: Eva Dahlbeck
David Erneman: Gunnar Björnstrand
Susanne Verin: Yvonne Lombard
Nix Erneman: Harriet Andersson
Carl-Adam: Åke Grönberg
Prof. Henrik Erneman: Olof Winnerstrand
Svea Erneman: Renée Björling
Pelle: Göran Lundquist

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Screenplay: Ingmar Bergman
Cinematography: Martin Bodin

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 and David Erneman. They are on the verge of divorce and she is about to marry her old flame Carl-Adam, a sculptor for whom she once posed. David is a gynecologist who has had a series of flings with other women, including Susanne, 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 and her bratty little brother, Pelle, and David's parents, 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 Harriet performance as Nix the more for having seen her as the dying Agnes in Bergman's Cries and Whispers (1972) the night before, but in this film her role makes no clear thematic sense.