New Yorker Films, $29.99, 117 mins, 1965
Unsatisfied with being a mere actress, starlet Zetterling made the move to directing with a very 60s, very Swedish feminist art film.
Ambitiously adapting a seven-novel cycle by Swedish author Agnes von Krusenstjerna, Loving Couples ( published in 1933) begins in the sterile confines of a maternity ward at the onset of the first World War, before giving way to flashbacks recounting the sexual histories of three pregnant women (two of them are married, one to the father of her child), ultimately converging at a Midsummer celebration, populated by a cast of Bergman regulars, that provides the most fertile ground for Zetterling’s irreverent, boldly stylized riff on sexual and social codes.
The packaging, emphasizing a few minor scenes of al fresco sexual frolicking, and the press clippings included in the booklet and the disc’s stills gallery simultaneously play up Zetterling’s taboo-busting sexual frankness and an ironic nostalgia for the now-quaint erotic European art film. Thankfully, the inclusion of Zetterling’s terse, tense 1962 short The War Game, in which two young cap pistol cowboys fight over a real gun in their London apartment building, makes a supporting case for Loving Couples’ s intellectual rigor.
Come for the Swedish boarding school girls hosing each other down; stay for the caustic despondency of a mother bringing a child into a morally null world.