Thanks to international distributors sensationalizing its sexual frankness, this bittersweet drama of ill-fated first love helped establish Ingmar Bergman as a filmmaker.
Harold (Lars Ekborg), a motherless youth whose father's failing health leaves him largely unsupervised, does menial labor in a glassworks. He falls for Monika (Harriet Andersson), a sensuous teenager with a wanton reputation, and gallantly defends her against a vengeful ex-boyfriend. Monika
loathes her large, slovenly, alchohol-sodden family, and when Harold loses his job at the the glassworks, the two elope together, convinced that their love will conquer all obstacles. Monika and Harold spend the summer in his father's boat, cruising the southern chain of islands off Stockholm,
swimming and making love, but the idyll turns sour when their food and money run out. Monika pushes Harold to thievery, and is disgusted with his clumsiness at robbing farmhouses. With Monika pregnant, the pair reluctantly return home. Harry's aunt helps the unhappy young couple obtain an
apartment, and Harold gets an engineering job. After giving birth to a daughter, a bored Monika resumes her carefree life, drinking and carousing with other men, and ultimately abandons Harold and the baby. In the final shot, Harry, the child in his arms, stares longingly at the glassworks where
he once worked.
With Gunnar Fischer's camera lens capturing the Nordic environs in a thousand shades of silver, SUMMER WITH MONIKA is an achingly poignant and nostalgic portrait of a summer affair, founded on a mirage of youthful invulnerability and folly, that burns briefly and then turns to ashes when the cares
of the world intrude on the all-too-weak couple. Bergman's poetic yet realistic approach contrasts sharply with Hollywood material of the era, like SONG OF LOVE (1949), an MGM export which Monika and Harold watch together on a movie date.
Ekborg is ideal as the good-hearted but naive boy who takes the fall for the eponymous child-woman temptress. As reprehensible and sluttish as she becomes, Andersson's Monika is never entirely without sympathy and ripened allure; it's said that Bergman wrote the script with her in mind, although
sources disagree on which actually came first, the scenerio collaboration with author Per Anders Fogelstrom, or Fogelstrom's own novel Monika, sometimes credited as the film's basis. The Swedish production company reportedly hesitated at the project's open sensuality, particularly in one scene in
which a succulent Monika disrobes and swims naked in the fjords. When it was pointed out that the scene existed in the book, the executives were satisfied. Still, despite the plot's sad outcome, MONIKA's sexy stuff caused a stir worldwide, especially in America where exploitation mogul Kroger Babb
cut the picture down to 62 minutes, dubbed dialogue into English and recorded an uptempo musical score (by Les Baxter) over the original soundtrack. "The Devil Controls Her by Radar!" thundered the ads adorned with a now-famous still of a scantily-clad Andersson. SUMMER WITH MONIKA got Ingmar
Bergman's name out there, if only as a purveyor of sex flicks; fortunately his subsequent canon brought his reputation up to the properly exalted level, and spared this film the fate of simply being remembered as Sweden's equivalent to AND GOD CREATED WOMAN (1956). (Profanity, adult situations,nudity, substance abuse, violence.)
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Thanks to international distributors sensationalizing its sexual frankness, this bittersweet drama of ill-fated first love helped establish Ingmar Bergman as a filmmaker. Harold (Lars Ekborg), a motherless youth whose father's failing health leaves him la… (more)