Released in 1953, Summer with Monika
, an early Ingmar Bergman-directed melodrama, did much to establish the reputation of Swedish cinema, and perhaps Swedish women in general, as leading the vanguard in sexual liberation. The film attracted the wrath of the censors and one scene of lovemaking had to be cut. While subsequent generations will look at the film and wonder whatever the fuss was about, it retains a vivid and frolicsome sensuality, before submitting to the inevitable, Bergmanesque bleakness.
The film tells the story of a young couple, Harry (Lars Ekborg) and Monika (18-year-old Harriet Andersson, with whom Bergman would fall in love) stuck in lousy jobs in Stockholm. Harry is beset by parental responsibility--his mother died young and his father is ill--while Monika is fed up with her drunken, violent father. They escape in a motorboat and to spend a blissful summer on an island in the archipelago. Once Monika gets pregnant and they're forced to steal food, however, the idyll concludes and they return to Stockholm, where the relationship disintegrates. You realise that Monika, from a large and fractious family, yearns for escapism, while Harry, who has never known true family life, longs for domestic stability. It is he who is left holding the baby. But Bergman does not quite condemn Monika, giving her one of his best scenes: in a cafe, estranged from Harry, chatting up a stranger, she stares unwaveringly and directly to camera, as if defying us to judge her. Visually ravishing, this film would have a deep impact on French New Wave cinema.
On the DVD: Summer with Monika on disc offers a fine restoration of the original film, and includes notes from Phillip Strick who points out that the film is in part hymn of praise to Stockholm's beauty and was influenced by the documentary "City Symphonies" made during World War II. --David Stubbs
Ingmar Bergman's tale of young love gone sour stars Harriet Andersson as a girl from Stockholm who falls in love with a young man on holiday. When she becomes pregnant they are forced into a marriage, which begins to fall apart soon after they take up residence in a cramped little flat.