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A Lesson in Love

(Swedish 1954 b 96')

En: 6 Ed: 5

Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, a gynecologist and his wife are both having affairs and may divorce; but he arranges to travel with her on a train and tries to persuade her to get back together.

          Susanne Verin (Yvonne Lombard) accuses the gynecologist David Erneman (Gunnar Bjornstrand) of having no understanding. A woman tells the doctor that her husband has come back from the army, and Dr. Erneman rushes out of the office.

         David is in a car with his chauffeur Sam (John Elfstrom).The patient Susanne tells Dr. Erneman she is not ill and is in love with him. He makes her leave, and she asks if he loves his wife. He says he has principles about marital fidelity. She embraces him and says she wants to kiss him and more. He says having an affair with her would cause a chain reaction. He admits he dreamt of her and kisses her. David wakes up in the car. On a sailboat David talks with her. He wakes up in the car again.

         David takes a train, and in a compartment he meets a man and an attractive woman. David is studying a book and finds photos of his son Tax and daughter Nix in it. At the beach he gives Nix (Harriet Andersson) a ride to town. While they eat, she asks him to operate on her so that she can become a man. She says Tax and her have left home. He asks her to talk to him, but she says he is naïve. They decide to spend the day together and visit Uncle Axel in his pottery workshop. Nix asks her father if he is divorcing her mother. She says love is silly, cries, and runs off. David follows her. Nix says her best friend Eva has changed and has a boyfriend. She tells him that his wife has been misbehaving with the sculptor Carl-Adam. Nix says mother must have a lover if he has a mistress. He says being preoccupied with physical love is like being a baboon. Nix asks her father if Susanne is attractive.

         On the train David puts the photos back in the book, and the woman returns to the compartment. She gets something in her eye, and he gets it out. He admits he loses his head over patients and says his wife has lovers too. He says he loves her, and she complains about the double standard regarding sex. David bets the man he will kiss her before the next stop. She comes in where David is working, and they talk as husband and wife. She notices that he has a hotel reservation.

         Marianne Erneman (Eva Dahlbeck) talks with David on the train. He wants to get back together, but she does not. He says they are getting older. She wonders if she ever loved him. She says she heard his bet and kisses him, asking for half. David narrates that fifteen years ago Carl-Adam (Ake Gronberg) proposed to her, and she accepted. Before the wedding Carl-Adam is worried. David goes and finds Marianne in bed. She says she won’t marry Carl-Adam and cries. He says she has been going with him for three years. She remembers incidents with David.  She tells David she has loved him for two years. She wants to make love, but he says business first. They go to the wedding and tell Carl-Adam, who congratulates them and slugs David. She hits Carl-Adam, and the minister comes between them. She complains about living with Carl-Adam and makes fun of him. He is angry too and quarrels with her. He pushes over the piano and breaks her plates. She destroys his sculpture. The minister suggests they stop fighting, and they have a party.

         On the train David and Marianne laugh over the memory. He says love never lasts. She says she is tried of being a wife. He is afraid the children will see him acting foolishly. She says their best times were alone. They remember visiting his parents. His mother Svea (Renée Bjorling) comes in and calls him child, and he says he is 42. Nix tells her grandmother she wants to be a boy and not wear a dress, and she fights with her brother Pelle. They celebrate the grandfather’s birhday. Svea makes him change into long underwear. Nix goes with him, and they talk about death and life. The car won’t start, and grandfather thanks Sam for arranging it. Svea says they will take the carriage as in the past, and horses take them to the picnic. David and Marianne walk in the woods. They lay down, and she says she is happy. She wants another baby. In the evening he says he has always loved her.

         They prepare to leave the train, and she says she no longer needs him. At the station Carl-Adam greets her with flowers and a kiss, and the three take a boat. Carl-Adam shows he is stronger than David, who says mental strength is important. They get in a taxi, and Carl-Adam and Marianne say goodbye to David. She suggests a drink at a low place. David and Marianne dance. Carl-Adam asks Lise (Birgitte Reimer) to distract David, and she seduces him. David drinks  a “volcano” that Carl-Adam ordered for him and dances with Lise. David takes off his coat and tie and then kisses Lise. Marianne gets upset and attacks Lise. David leaves with her while Carl-Adam is holding Lise. By the water Marianne is very jealous and then starts crying. Sam picks them up in the car. David takes her to his reserved hotel room. Cupid changes the “Do not disturb” sign to “Silence: a lesson in love.”

         This comedy for adults explores the marriage of a gynecologist who can be easily tempted by his work. The double standard is transcended as her affair is considered no worse than his. She is tired of her role as wife, and their daughter does not want to be a woman, indicating that in Sweden women’s liberation is already beginning.

Copyright © 2009 by Sanderson Beck

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