Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Women's Dream (aka Dreams)

 What's in Your Head, Your Head

The clock is ticking: maybe because of its foregrounding we should ingest that as the First Instance of what will become one of Bergman's great tropes — although it ordains not so much a matter of suspense (as in Hitchcock) as a humming, if you will, of irresolution, and the announcement nonetheless of an eminently logical plotting to come. The film is Kvinnodröm [Women's Dream, 1955], also known as Dreams, which is not to be confused with Akira Kurosawa's picture of forty years later. In contradistinction from the Kurosawa movie, there are no surreal passages here to signal dreamscapes (outside of the Bergman-intrinsic-cinema), but rather wishes, hopings-for — mind you, in Women's Dream they have their airing. Note too that this is the umpteenth Bergman picture that pivots around women and not men: in Bergman's view, women are infinitely more interesting and are the contextual stage-setters for men's condition(s). A cinephile of iconoclastic taste, Bergman opts for Eva Dahlbeck over Joan Crawford, and that is to his individual credit.

Women's Dream starts out like a silent film, with Susanne (Dahlbeck) art-directing the photo-shoot for which Doris (Harriet Andersson) is modeling — something like five minutes of screen-time without any dialogue, only the tinkling of the music, diegetic or non, on the soundtrack, — a representative from the maison hornily sucking in each inch of the proceedings, tapping his ringed fingers on an endtable, an oblivious ass, his bladder-section bulging to the point of burst. Here is the most 'dreamlike' section of the film, something that would fit in Fellini were it not for the dire sweat, just inadmissions of anxiety ("Si, certo.").

Another shoot encroaches, via telephone, in Göteberg now: the models know that Dahlbeck has a lover there; Andersson is a good-time gal and will surely find amusement, despite the fiancé of Stockholm. We now gather these women as parallels in their love-lives, and await the mutual unstringing. It's not long after their arrival in Göteberg (by train again, condensing but promulgating touches of A Lesson in Love) that Dahlbeck attempts to connect via telephone in a konditeri with Henrik (Ulf Palme), wherein all the exclusively women patrons give her perturbed, perhaps maddeningly jealous, glances, as she exits the establishment after what has been an exceedingly chaste exchange.

Susanne fires Doris upon her lateness for the Göteberg shoot; Susanne second-guesses her own anger immediately afterward. Doris has met Otto (Gunnar Björnstrand), a dandy'ish about-towner who telegraphs his wealth by promises of gifts to Doris in the course of her idle window-shopping. I don't have much to remark upon here: the most extraordinary section of the film, in which Otto invites Doris to his house and thus initiates one of The Great House Scenes in cinema: many questions about the origins of an estate arise, but they're outside the ken of the film itself, which is a beautiful circumstance. 

A fantasy crumbles upon the intrusion of Otto's daughter Marianne (Kerstin Hedeby), vulpine.

"Go, I said," are Otto's last words to Doris.

The emotional stakes throughout this sequence make Susanne's rendez-vous with Henrik seem what it is — worn of energy — in this dismal hotel room that reminds one of a movie made ten years later, Godard's not un-Bergman-like Une femme mariée.


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