After the failure of Sawdust and Tinsel for the Sandrew’s Film Company, Ingmar Bergman promised the head of the studio a comedy for his next film Dreams (also known as Journey Into Autumn), but just as the spectre of jealousy taken from Bergman’s own life hung over the previous film, so too would Bergman’s troubled relationship with his leading actress Harriet Andersson heavily influence the tone of Dreams.
The film examines the flaws in the amorous relationships of two women and, not very originally, finds flaws on all sides. One of the women, Susanne Frank (Eva Dahlbeck), is a top fashion designer who has recently broken-up with a married man she has been having an affair with. The break-up however was more to do with being unable to convince him to leave his wife and she still has strong feelings for him. Knowing that he is in Gothenburg, she travels there for a fashion photo-shoot, prepared to accept the little part of his life he is willing to share with her. The trip has an adverse effect on one of the fashion models, Doris (Harriet Andersson), a single-minded young woman who refuses to be dictated to by her boyfriend Pelle (Sven Lindberg), and she consequently breaks-up with him to go on the trip.
In Gothenburg, both women have illusions about their relationships, but they are soon shattered. Doris meets up with a distinguished gentleman, a consul (Gunnar Björnstrand), who buys her an expensive ball gown and a precious necklace, but she comes to realise that she is being bought as a substitute for the consul’s wife who has lost her mind. Doris realises she has been young and naïve and that the genuine love she had with Pelle cannot be bought. Susanne is not so young, but she too realises that she has been just as foolish, falling for an illusion and the half-measure that Henrik (Ulf Palme) is willing to offer.
Weak women, heads filled with illusions about their relationships, and pitiful middle-aged men looking for the easiest way to keep their comfortable lifestyles while satisfying the vanity of their charm, the theme of Dreams is a familiar one in Ingmar Bergman films, from the sex comedy of A Lesson In Love (Berman’s preceding film for Svensk Filmindustri, a light comedy that this one was no doubt meant to emulate), through to the intense relationship drama of Scenes From A Marriage. Although it has a few moments of both dramatic intensity and light-heartedness, there is a curious lack of balance and consistency in Dreams, with neither the horror endured by Björnstrand’s consul on a ghost train, causing him a flashback to his wife’s suffering from mental illness, nor Susanne’s suicidal impulse on the train, nor the playfulness of Andersson’s model, drunk on champagne and glamour, really having any convincing depth of feeling or strength of performance. Only the appearance of Henrik’s wife Marianne (now there’s a familiar Bergman name for the long-suffering wife), coldly delivering a few home truths, really hit the mark, but even those are lacking the dark bitterness of relationship troubles that Bergman would come to depict in his later films with far more precision and force.
Dreams is released in the UK by Tartan as part of their Ingmar Bergman Collection limited edition thirty-disc set. While most of the films are available separately, Dreams is exclusive to this set. Like the other releases in the collection, the disc is in PAL format and is not region coded.
The quality of the presentation here is as good as the majority of the early 1950’s black and white films in The Ingmar Bergman Collection, but it also suffers from the same problems as those other discs. The print itself looks fabulous, with scarcely more than a scratch or two, a couple of reel-change marks and a stray hair troubling a couple of frames. Sharpness is excellent, showing fine detail and excellent greyscale tones, although whites can appear a little glaring in one or two scenes. The only real problem here is the familiar one of macro-blocking compression causing noticeable shifting and morphing of objects and backgrounds. The film is presented on a single-layer disc, but even so, there really shouldn’t be any problem fitting on an 80 minute black and white film with only a couple of trailers as extra features. It’s a real pity, as otherwise the video quality often looks quite stunning here.
Some of the Tartan Bergman Collection releases do have problems with the audio track, but that is not the case here. The sound throughout is clear, dialogue and sounds perfectly audible, with no real problems caused by hiss or analogue noise.
English subtitles are in a clear white font and are optional.
The only extra features on the set are the very familiar Persona Trailer and Autumn Sonata Trailer, as well as Filmographies for Ingmar Bergman, Eva Dahlbeck and Gunnar Björnstrand.
Acknowledged by Ingmar Bergman himself as being a troubled production, the director’s personal troubles do unfortunately seem to drag Dreams down. Bergman has dealt with the subject of relationship problems much better elsewhere, with both a comic lightness of touch and with visceral force when required. Dreams attempts to balance both approaches, but caught up in his own drama, the director seems unable to strike the necessary distance that is required to examine the powerful emotions the film’s situations give rise to with his customary precision and insight.