It Rains on our Love (Ingmar Bergman, 1946)
Just-released-from-prison David (Birger Malmsten) and prostitute (or at least I think so, as they play surprisingly coy about this for a Swedish film, even for the time) Maggi (Barbro Kollberg) meet at a bus station and immediately hook up in a cheap hotel room, with the penniless couple deciding to embark on a new life together, soon to realize how tough it’ll be with straight-laced respectable society (from townspeople, to landlords, to the police and even clergy) rejecting them at every turn.
As with his directorial debut Crisis, Bergman’s sophomore follow-up has some clear connections with the American noir films of the day (with its occasional high-contrast lighting and main story of a luckless couple desperate to go ‘straight’ seemingly taken right from any number of 40’s noir classics, just without the ensuing murder, its themes of a hypocritical and cruel world ostracizing the individual, as well as the concluding courtroom setting where our heroes’ guilt or innocence, as well as those who judge them, is on trial), as I guess the eager neophyte filmmaker leaned towards what was popular at the time as he flailed about in search of a personal cinematic vision (which he would eventually achieve in spades, to the success of becoming one of the world’s greatest filmmakers, while at the same time, amusingly, abandoning much connection to noir) and yet it’s surprisingly light in its approach, with awkward bits of humor along the way.
While Crisis was far from a brilliant debut (Bergman would thankfully quickly outgrow the didactic underlying theme comparing the evils of indulgent city life with the pastoral rewards of family and country living), there was a consistency (and intensity) in the direction of the film, as well as early glimpses (little ones, but they’re there nonetheless) of what would eventually be stamped and recognized as Bergman’s brilliant existential theatricality in performance and composition.
It Rains on our Love, meanwhile, has likeable performers Malstem (a welcome Bergman regular who would inexplicably disappear from his films corresponding with the rise of Bergman’s international stardom through the 50’s) and Kollberg working hard in their roles, a striking Bergman-esque landlord character who takes advantage of the young couple at every turn (cruel and greedy, with beady eyes he tells his goal is to outlive the children who abandoned him so as not to leave them a penny of his worth) and a fun meta theater gimmick (that both Bergman and his greatest admirer Woody Allen would go on to use often in their later works) of a guiding angel narrator who both speaks directly to us, the viewer, while engaging in the narrative as well, is a bit of a comedown from Crisis. As a work for hire (something Bergman would almost completely abandon with his emerging success), Bergman struggles to capture a consistent tone and the film’s attempts at levity, with things such as (normally one of my favorite Bergman regulars, there right from the first film) Gunnar Bjornstrand playing an insensitive bureaucrat prat-falling about, might have worked better on stage, but come across as strained here. The courtroom climax, where the angel ends up acting as the couple’s defender and exposes to the various members of straight society their petty hypocrisies in comparison to the heroism of David and Maggie by simply describing what we’ve already seen with our own eyes feels written, without the moment ever coming to life.
Bergman (and the material itself) might have been a bit light in his (and its) approach, yet, at the same time, it’s hard not to admire Bergman’s first three films (the first as screenwriter and the next two as director) on their titles alone – Torment, Crisis and It Rains on our Love. Ah, Sweden. How can I not admire a country in which film titles like that were considered box office potential?