This episodic film is not one of Bergman’s stronger efforts. It does have its moments, of course.
The wives of four brothers are gathered together in a lakeside cottage where they await the return of their husbands from an event held by their family company. In the background sits the much younger sister of one of them. To kill time and share, each of them relates the story of a pivotal moment in her relationship.
The first is very short and is more a complaint of one of the wives about the lack of passion or intimacy in her marriage. The second one is the tale of a wife’s adultery with a former lover. In an effort to resolve her guilt and bring them together, she reveals her indiscretion to her husband and has to deal with the consequences.
The third wife reaches back to a time before her marriage. She discovers she is pregnant on the same day her boyfriend’s father dies. He calls it quits before she has a chance to announce her condition. When he tries to reconcile, she refuses to take him back. Most of the episode covers the experience of her childbirth, including a dream scene while she is under ether that presages some of Bergman’s later work.
The last and best story deals with the oldest and wealthiest of the wives, Karin (Eva Dahlbeck). After a night out, she and her husband Fredrik (Birger Malmsten) are stuck all night in an elevator. It’s a very witty and even sexy look at what can happen when a long-married couple have some alone time to resolve their problems and rekindle their romance. With Anita Björk and Maj-Britt Nilsson.
I loved the last story with Dahlbeck and Malmsten. Bergman really should have done more comedy. I think the rest might have made pretty good full length films. The vignettes didn’t give us enough time to really know the characters, I thought. There’s a lot more hope in this than in some of the director’s previous work, which is a plus.
Discussion of the film – spoilers