A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Summer With Monika (Ingmar Bergman, 1953)

This early Bergman film, coming before the trifecta of Smiles of a Summer Night (1955), The Seventh Seal (1957), and Wild Strawberries (1957) established his reputation as a director, got its first exposure in the United States in 1955 when an enterprising distributor purchased the rights, cut it by a third, and released it as Monika, the Story of a Bad Girl, with a publicity campaign centered on Harriet Andersson's nude scene. As the original poster at left suggests, the Swedish distributors were not above exploiting Andersson either, but Bergman's adaptation with Per Anders Fogelström of Fogelström's novel, is anything but a naughty sexcapade. It's a film about disaffected youth: Monika and Harry (Lars Ekborg) are in their late teens and trapped in boring jobs. Monika works at a produce store where she is sexually harassed by the male employees, and Harry, a packer and delivery boy in a store that deals in pottery and glassware, is constantly being scolded for being late and lazy. Harry wants to study to be an engineer, but he has to look after his father, who is an invalid. His mother died when he was 8, and he tells Monika that he has always felt alone. Monika is anything but alone: Her father is abusive and her mother barely tends to Monika's noisy young siblings. So when Harry's father goes into a hospital, Monika persuades Harry to run away with her. They steal his father's boat and sail away from Stockholm to the countryside, beautifully filmed by Gunnar Fischer. Their idyll is eventually cut short by their lack of money and Monika's pregnancy. The problem with the film is that a rather puritanical tone eventually seeps in, making Monika the focus of a moral condescension that Bergman would outgrow as his career progressed.
Promotional posters for the 1955 American release of Summer With Monika

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