Cambridge devotees of Ingmar Bergman will have to wait for The Virgin Spring if it's the artistic manipulation of a new and different situation they're after. For Dreams sheds little light on the already thoroughly essayed subject of mis-matched lovers. Marred by disturbing patches of unmitigated boredom, this Bergman import lacks the sparkle of either Smiles of a Summer Night or A Lesson in Love.
Simplicity is the greatest virtue of the plot: a young fashion model, Doris (Harriett Andersson) and her boss, Suzanne Brown (Eva Dahlbeck), journey from Stockholm to Gothenberg, the former to get away from her cloying fiance and the latter to try to renew a once torrid love affair with a married businessman, Mr. Lobelius (Ulf Palme). In another of his brilliant characterizations, Gunnar Bjornstand portrays the aging consul, who picks up Doris and plays Santa Baby with her for a day. He buys her a gown, a necklace, and a hot choclate with whipped cream; he quietly retches as he accompanies her on gassing rides at the amusement park; then he takes her to his mansion to mid-afternoon champagne. He watches her youthful exuberance and realizes that he's too old to love. His weakness is dramatized in a confrontation scene with his pathological daughter in which she demands more money and chides him for neglecting his wife, who has been in the looney bin for twenty-three years. Somewhere in the course of the day, Doris is fired.
Meanwhile, back at the hotel, Suzanne Brown receives her lover. He has responsibilities: business and family life. She has passions. Her charms prevail until a second confrontation scene in which his wife drops in for a chat. She has all the answers (she asks all the questions). It becomes apparent from Mr. Lobelius's cowardice in facing either his wife or his lover that we have another ill-fated love on our hands.
The denouement is complete when back in Stockholm, Doris is rehired and reunited with her fiance and Suzanne tears up an apologetic letter from Mr. Lobelius.
Patently parallel, the two affairs reiterate a favorite Bergman theme: love is an illusory, ephemeral phenomenon; understanding is possible only where the illusion of love is absent. The characteristically expressive acting typical of Bergman's more or less regular troupe serves to illustrate the theme. Miss Andresson's versatile transformation from the tomboy of A Lesson in Love to the model in Dreams is particularly note-worthy, and Miss Dahlbeck exhibits control like very few actresses around.