U.S. title: Secrets of Women
Ingmar Bergman ~ 1952 ~ Sweden ~ b&w
Three women discuss their various sexual awakenings ~ through marriage, infidelity and lost loves ~ as they wait for their husbands to arrive for the Summer.
Simple as the premise may be, Bergman’s use of composition and especially of light-and-darkness here is exemplary, exploiting black-and-white photography to its fullest. The first story is a sun-drenched tale of angst and unfaithfulness. The central threesome verbally barter with, seduce and injure one another in the best Bergman style. The second tale is near-silent, cloaked in shadows and often startling images. A seduction is played out using almost solely a man’s hand; half-seen images and shadows are sinister, although ordinary in origin ~ all creating the paranoid and dream-like state of the female protagonist. The third episode uses a faulty lift for dramatic and comedic effect; here again the faulty light makes maximum use of atmosphere. This last tale is also evidence that Bergman can amuse where perhaps ‘Now, about these women’ felt strained and ‘A Lesson in Love’ a little too light.
What perhaps is most surprising is that, for all the dark corners, all the pains, ‘Waiting Women’ is profoundly optimistic. Wonderful moments in a slightly seedy nightclub, by the river, in the lift, all remain memorable and masterfully executed. And then, as always, it is the performances that truly elevate Bergman’s bright-but-troubled backdrops. There are several familiar faces from his other films, but Dahlbeck and Bjornstrand in the elevator deserve special credit.
Foregrounding women’s concerns and forgiveness, ‘Waiting Women’ is both easy and insightful.