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Summer Interlude: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

It’s about time we got some more Ingmar Bergman (Seventh Seal, rules!) on Blu-ray, but we’re taking it back a few years and focusing on his dramatic efforts with regards to love. Yeah, you might be saying that love and Bergman don’t mix, but they do if you add the components of death, despair, and so forth. Summer Interlude is no different and it marks the celebrated director’s TENTH film. He had yet begun to define himself, as some would say. Criterion Collection has done a great thing by bringing Summer Interlude to the Blu-ray format. Keep reading after the jump to see if Summer Interlude is worth owning. Also, keep it here, because we’ve got more Bergman on the way with Summer With Monika. See, I always take care of our readers. 😉 

Film

Summer Interlude was Ingmar Bergman’s tenth film, which deals with love and isolation. It tells the story of beautiful Marie (Maj-Britt Nilsson), who is an accomplished ballet dancer and the hardcore lonely life that she has to deal with at the theater hall. There seems to be no rest for the wicked, it seems. She’s focused, cold, and is all about the dance. One night during rehearsals she receives a mysterious journal and off she goes to an island by ferry near Stockholm. It’s the island that she vacationed to many years ago to visit her aunt and uncle.

Marie also met a young man by the name of Henrik (Birger Malmsten) and they carried on a courtship for quite a while soon thereafter. In fact, it turned into one of those unforgettable summers, if you get my meaning as the young couple meets, falls in love, go through the expected problems, and then are separated by tragic events.

Summer Interlude is a performance based film and Nilsson as Marie evokes both beauty and coldness quite well. She reminded me of Audrey Tautou. It was kind of funny seeing how Marie and Henrik carried on at first. This being the early 50’s – there used to be courtship involved even before the first kiss was given. I know I sat there saying that Henrik better make a move on Marie before I lose all respect for him. Then again, that was just me thinking out loud. As they become a couple, Henrik’s insecurities creep in due to Marie focusing on her dancing while he gets all bent out of shape, because she’s not paying any attention to him. Foolish pride, I say.

When the film hits that third act, is when Bergman takes the rug from underneath us and shows us why Marie was such a bitch early on in the film. It’s not until her epiphany towards the end that she embraces her fate and comes to terms with her past.

Ingmar Bergman was a very prolific filmmaker and theater director, so it was nice to see that Summer Interlude was a mixed batch of both disciplines. The dance numbers and the behind-the-scenes workings of the dance troupes sets the tone for Marie’s current state of mind, while the flashbacks of her vacation with Henrik on the beautiful island lean towards the evocative. It’s like a dream when they’re on the island.

Bergman was always a fascinating film figure in that the majority of his work was not always the “feel good” event of the year even though they may have had trickle of hope. Summer Interlude is quite the optimistic film, though. It offers doses of happiness, sadness, shakes it about, and adds a dash of hope on top.

 Video 

Okay, so this is where I would usually chip in my thoughts on what the film transfer is like and what not. Well, this time I will let Criterion tell you all about it. This is a special case that I feel they would do better in articulating.

Summer Interlude is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. On widescreen televisions, black bars will appear on the left and right of the image to maintain the proper screen format. For the Blu-ray edition, the picture has been slightly windowboxed to ensure that the maximum image is visible on all monitors. The original negative of Summer Interlude has been lost; this new digital transfer was constructed from two 35 mm duplicate negative sources. We accessed the first, the only existing 35 mm duplicate negative in Sweden, at the Swedish Film Institute; it was transferred in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner at Chimney Pot in Stockholm. Much of this duplicate negative, however, was scratched, as well as riddled with mold so persistent that in some sections it was impossible to remove completely, even after more than four hundred hours of restoration. We then discovered another 35 mm duplicate negative, in Janus Films’ vaults, made in 1966 and stored under an alternate title Illicit Interlude. Though there was no mold problem with this duplicate negative, much of it suffered from severe shrinkage, which can cause the right of the frame to buckle and be out of focus. Nonetheless, we were able to replace the sections of the Swedish Film Institute transfer that suffered from the worst mold and scratches that could not be repaired, incorporates nine minutes of Janus Films’ negative with the original transfer. Additionally, manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Image Systems’ Phoenix and Pixel Farms’ PFClean were used for small dirt, grain, jitter, and flicker.

Audio 

The original monaural soundtrack was mastered at 24-bit from a 35 mm optical soundtrack print. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation.

I have no problem with monaural soundtracks; some of them have incredible depth, but Summer Interlude’s soundtrack falls just a tad bit short. Dialogue is obviously front and centered, but everything else lacks just a bit of depth and clarity. Don’t get me wrong, considering the source, it’s still an excellent soundtrack, but I’ve heard better. It does compliment the video specifications wuite well, though.

Extras

Summer Interlude is a movie-only Criterion Blu-ray, so no extra supplements are included. A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Peter Cowie is included, however.

Summary 

What starts of as a very cold film, brightens up towards the middle, only to get cold again before emerging back into the light once more. I had wondered if the film would deal in the same themes that all of Bergman’s film dwell upon and was happy (ironic, huh) that it continued the trend. Criterion have done an admirable job in restoring the film. This is about as good as it will ever get for Summer Interlude. It’s a shame that no extra supplements were included, but It’s damn fine cinema as is.

 

 

 

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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