Written and directed by Ingmar Berman, two men have the same mistress, and she invites them and their wives for a weekend.
The lawyer Fredrik Egerman (Gunnar Bjornstrand) is going to the theater, and the famous actress Desiree Armfeldt (Eva Dahlbeck) is performing. His employees say he is going home to his new wife, but the actress was his mistress. Fredrik stops by to pick up the photos of his wife. At home his pretty maid Petra (Harriet Andersson) says she is eighteen years old. He finds his wife Anne (Ulla Jacobsson) reading with his son Henrik Egerman (Bjorn Bjelfvenstam). She is excited about going to the theater and talks about what she should wear. He says he did not buy another ticket to the comedy because his son is a man of the church. Henrik asks Petra not to swing her hips. He kisses her, and she slaps him. Fredrik and Anne lay on their bed, and he caresses her and kisses her. He says he longs for her and repeats “Desiree.” Anne sits up.
Fredrik and Anne enter the theater and sit in a balcony box. Desiree is playing a countess, and Anne asks why she smiled at them. Anne says she is beautiful, but he says it is makeup. The Countess tells other women how to handle men. Anne is upset and asks to go home. They get up and leave. At home Fredrik asks Petra to help his wife. Henrik is holding a guitar. Fredrik drinks wine and asks his son why he is unhappy. Henrik says they sinned but failed. Fredrik advises him about love and to try again. He says the first time is always a farce. Fredrik praises Petra before he retires with Anne. They embrace, and Anne asks if he would become jealous if she took up with Henrik. She talks about Fredrik as the wolf with her. They kiss, and she says she is going to sleep. She will be his real wife someday and asks him to be patient. She says the actress is old. Fredrik hears Henrik reading to Petra about virtue. He hears them talking about him. Henrik follows her up the stairs, but she shakes her head.
Fredrik sneaks out of his house and goes backstage as the play is ending. Desiree takes him into her dressing-room and embraces him. He says he dreamed of her and said her name to his wife, who thinks she is old. He asks her not to laugh and tells her that his wife is still a virgin after two years. He admits he loves her. She has a temper but is tender and kind. He asks Desiree to help him because she is his best friend. She asks what she will get, and he offers his son, a riding horse, a string of pearls, or a reward in heaven. She bites his finger and says she wants her reward in this world. She goes behind a screen and changes her dress. She asks if she is still attractive, and he says she looks even better. Desiree talks with her maid about Fredrik. The three walk to her house, and Desiree sings. He falls into a puddle. She puts a nightcap on his head. He looks in a mirror and asks how a woman can love a man. He asks who the little boy is, and she says it is Fredrik. She says he is all hers and is named after Fredrik the Great. He says she is not fit to bring up a child, and she slaps him. The maid brings him a hot toddy. Desiree is angry and says she has feelings too. He says he has suffered too; but she talks so much he forgot what he was going to say. He asks her to forgive him. He says she called it off, and she asks if he ever intended to marry her. She says he had other women, but he says she was “headquarters.” She says she does not care about his young wife. He thought they were friends. She says his only friend is himself; she has the theater and needs no one. She warns him about his son taking his role. Someone knocks, and he gets nervous. Count Carl Magnus Malcolm (Jarl Kulle) comes in and hands her a bouquet. He has a few hours and asks if he can take off his uniform and put on his robe. She says someone is wearing his robe and introduces the lawyer Egerman. She goes to see if Fredrik’s clothes are dry. Carl tells Fredrik that she is his mistress, and he is jealous and does not tolerate lap dogs. He says he has dueled eighteen times. He accurately throws his fruit knife into a photo on the wall. He considers lawyers parasites. Fredrik asks if there will be a war. Desiree comes back, and Carl tells Fredrik to leave in a hurry. He gives up the robe and walks out. The maid brings him his clothes and apologizes.
Desiree visits her mother and says she broke it off with Carl. She says he threatened her with a poker. She hit him with the poker, and he left. Her mother tells how she loved her father. Desiree asks her to give her a party. She wants to invite the Count and the Countess and Fredrik and his wife. Her mother writes the invitations as they chat. Her mother says you can never protect a human from suffering. Desiree says goodbye.
Countess Charlotte Malcolm (Margit Carlqvist) returns from riding a horse. Carl orders red roses sent to Desiree and yellow roses to his wife. Charlotte shoots a pistol, and she asks about Desiree. He says a lawyer was there in his nightshirt. He says they are invited to Desiree’s for the weekend along with the Egermans. Carl says he can tolerate his wife’s infidelity, but with his mistress he becomes a tiger.
At breakfast Henrik tells Fredrik he is staying longer. Fredrik goes out, and Petra comes in and shows her breasts to Henrik, who leaves. The older cook Beata calls her a silly girl. Petra goes into the bedroom and brushes Anne’s hair. Anne asks if she is a virgin. She says no, but she knows that Anne is. Petra says she was sixteen. She gets tired but says it is fun with the next boy. Neither one wants to be a man, and they laugh and embrace on the bed. Anne goes in the kitchen and asks Beata what is for dinner. Someone did her work watering the flowers, and so she goes and talks to Henrik who is studying. She tells him to take off his robe and slippers so she can burn them. She slaps him for flirting with Petra and then touches him tenderly and runs out. Anne knocks and goes in to see Fredrik. She sits on his lap and kisses him. He puffs on his cigar, and she leaves.
Countess Charlotte Malcolm comes in to see Anne, who is glad to see her. They are the same age—nineteen. Charlotte says her husband was seen at Desiree’s apartment last night. She says she is known to have orgies there. Anne says that the whole town knows that Charlotte’s husband is having an affair with Desiree. Charlotte says she hates him and that love is disgusting. Yet she loves him. She says no one gets the best of Desiree and that all men are attracted to her. Fredrik comes in and tells them about Desiree’s invitation. Fredrik goes out and looks at the photos of his wife.
Fredrik thanks Desiree’s mother for inviting them. Petra arrives in a carriage with the baggage. She asks the groom Frid (Ake Fridell) where Henrik’s room is, and he shows her and flirts with her. They see Desiree on the lawn below. Desiree meets Fredrik’s wife Anne. Count Carl and Charlotte arrive in a motorcar. The two couples meet each other.
Desiree tells Charlotte that she has a plan. She suggests they make peace for a while and discuss her husband. Outside the men are playing croquet. Desiree says how Fredrik looked at Charlotte. They will arrange the seating at dinner.
In the evening Charlotte sits next to Fredrik at dinner. Desiree is next to Carl, and Henrik is by Anne. Desiree’s mother sits alone on the other side. Charlotte says she can seduce Fredrik in fifteen minutes, and she suggests a bet. The mother says the wine has a special potency, and they drink. Henrik breaks his glass and quarrels with his father. Desiree offers him another glass, and he accuses her of compromising her art. Anne tells him to calm down. Carl makes Henrik angry. Henrik stands up, asks them to forgive him, and runs out. Fredrik and Petra stand behind Anne, who asks to retire. She goes with Petra. The others get up, and Carl asks Charlotte and Desiree what they are gossiping about.
Charlotte gives Fredrik a kiss, and he asks if she is trying to make her husband jealous. Desiree plays guitar and sings, and they are joined by Fredrik and Charlotte. Alone Henrik plays piano and contemplates suicide.
Henrik sees Petra and the servant run in the yard. Henrik says he wants to sin too. He takes the belt from his robe and puts it around his neck. He climbs up on a mantle and jumps off, but the belt comes loose. He hits the button that makes a bed come out on which Anne is sleeping. He pours a vase of water on his head and thinks he must be dead. He kisses her neck, and she awakes and says she loves him. He says he loves her too and kisses her.
Petra lays in Frid’s lap under a tree. He is drinking beer, and they talk about love. Henrik comes and whispers to them. They go into the barn. Henrik finds Anne and embraces her. Fredrik sees them kissing. Petra finds Anne, and they hug. Frid brings a buggy for Henrik and Anne, and they ride off. Fredrik picks up a white veil. Petra lays in straw, and Frid drinks wine and laughs. She says he must marry her. Desiree tucks in her boy and from the window sees Fredrik and Charlotte go in the pavilion. Carl is in bed, and Desiree tells him that his wife went into the pavilion with Fredrik. He gets dressed, and she asks if he is jealous. He says he is like a tiger over his wife. Desiree sees him go into the pavilion. Carl tells his wife that he and Fredrik want to be alone, and she leaves. Carl says they are going to play Russian roulette with a pistol. The two men drink cognac, and Carl spins the revolver. He picks it up, spins the chamber, points it at his head, and pulls the trigger. Then Fredrik pulls the trigger and laughs. Carl spins the chamber again, and the trigger clicks. Fredrik points the gun at his head. Desiree and Charlotte hear a shot. Carl comes out and laughs, saying he used a blank. Desiree goes in, and Carl tells Charlotte that she is ridiculous. She says she did it in eight minutes and won the bet. He asks what the winner wants, and she says, “You.” He laughs and promises to be faithful in his way. Desiree cleans off the soot on Fredrik’s head. He asks her not to leave him, and he lays down. She puts his photos of his wife in her pocket. She smokes a cigar. In the hay Petra tries to get Frid to swear. They laugh and cavort.
This charming comedy is a modern version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, satirizing the folly and fickleness of love and sexual attraction. Only the frustrated religious man seems to be having a bad time. The most independent lovers seem to be Desiree, Fredrik, Carl, Petra, and Frid, perhaps because they are most in love with themselves.