Review: June Night – Juninatten (1940)

June Night – Juninatten (1940)

Directed by: Per Lindberg | 85 minutes | drama | Actors: Ingrid Bergman, Marianne Löfgren, Lill-Tollie Zellman, Marianne Aminoff, Olof Widgren, Gunnar Sjöberg, Gabriel Alw, Olof Winnerstrand, Sigurd Wallén, Hasse Ekman, Maritta Marke, Gudrun Brost, John Botvid, Karin Swanström, Carl Ström, Nina Scenna, Sol-Britt Agerup, Gunnar Almqvist, Sven-Göran Alw, Margareta Bergman, Gunnar Björnstrand, Hugo Bolander, Millan Bolander, Ernst Brunman, Jean Claesson, Nils Dahlgren, David Erikson, Erik Forslund, Mona Geijer-Falkner, Hjördis Gille, Nils Jacobsson, Albert Johansson, Alf Kjellin, Britta Larsson, Allan Linder, Richard Lund, Wilma Malmlöf, Karin Nordgren, Werner Ohlson, Tom Olsson, Charley Paterson, Astrid Svedmann, Anna-Stina Wåglund

“I made so many films which were more important, but the only one people ever want to talk about is that one with Humphrey Bogart.” To the outside world ‘Casablanca’ (1942) may be a memorable film, Ingrid Bergman apparently thought otherwise. The main reason for this is probably the fact that she did not get along at all with her opponent in that film. Humphrey Bogart was therefore not the easiest to deal with. In fact, despite their undeniable chemistry on the silver screen, the two barely spoke to each other. The only time they were together outside of the set was over lunch with colleague Geraldine Fitzgerald. “The whole subject at lunch was how they could get out of that movie. They thought the dialogue was ridiculous and the situations were unbelievable…” Despite everything, Bogart’s then-wife Mayo Methot thought he and Bergman were having an affair. He was regularly beaten in his dressing room.

Shortly before Ingrid Bergman made the crossing to Hollywood, where she would acquire her legendary status with films such as ‘Casablanca’, she filmed ‘Juninatten’ (1940) in her home country of Sweden, called ‘June Night’ in English. She plays Kerstin Nordbäck, a young woman who has just ended her relationship with Nils Asklund (Gunnar Sjöberg). He can’t stand that and tries to commit suicide in the presence of Kerstin. Suddenly, however, he changes his mind and shoots not himself, but her. She barely survives the attempt on her life. A lawsuit follows and Nils ends up behind bars. However, her story has been widely reported in the media and Kerstin, still recovering from her gunshot wound, flees under a new name – Sara Nordanå – to the big city. There she is taken care of at the hospital by sister Åsa (Marianne Löfgren), who takes her to the pension where she lives with two friends. For a while things are going in the right direction with Sara. But when journalist Willy Wilson (Hasse Ekman), the boyfriend of one of her roommates, recognizes her, things go wrong. To top it all off, she also develops feelings for Doctor Stefan von Bremen (Olof Widgren), her best friend Åsa’s fiancée…

‘June Night’ was the last film Ingrid Bergman would make in Sweden. The print was directed by Per Lindberg. He wrote the screenplay together with Ragnar Hyltén-Cavallius. The novel by Tora Nordström-Bonnier is the basis of the story. Those who watch the film in the twenty-first century will find it rather dated, but compared to what came out of the United States at the time, the Swedes are surprisingly open and direct about their mores and customs. To the outside world, women who have (had) relationships with different men before their marriage may be immoral, behind closed doors the true monkey comes out of the sleeve. Against the preachy movies that came out of Hollywood, that’s very refreshing. However, it doesn’t work for the entire film, because the choice that the troubled femme fatale Kerstin/Sara makes at the end of the story will make many people frown. The fact that the idiosyncratic choice deviates from the Hollywood standard is again commendable. Incidentally, the film has no trouble at all to hold the viewer’s attention, because the events follow each other in rapid succession.

Of course, great attention is paid to Ingrid Bergman, who is absolutely at her most beautiful in this film. Moreover, she plays the tiles of the roof. Her confused character offers the legendary actress plenty of opportunities to present herself as an extraordinary professional. The actress, who is often enough with a glance, apparently has no trouble at all to portray Kerstin/Sara credibly. The other actors also put their best foot forward. Most striking is Marianne Löfgren as Sara’s girlfriend Åsa, with whom the viewer sympathizes the most. The main male roles are played by Olof Widgren, Gunnar Sjöberg and Hasse Ekman (the son of the legendary Swedish actor Gösta Ekman, alongside whom Bergman had her big break four years earlier in the film ‘Intermezzo’). The supporting roles are filled by numerous well-known Swedish character actors. The photography of Åke Dahlquist is beautiful, but unfortunately the lighting is quite lacking, so that the image quality is not optimal.

‘June Night’ may be one of Ingrid Bergman’s lesser-known films, but here too the Swedish film icon stands her ground. This romantic drama is compelling and refreshingly realistic, although it can seem a bit dated at times. Travel in time, back to Sweden in 1940, and sit back and relax. This is Ingrid Bergman at her best!

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