Monday, May 29, 2017

Summer with Monika

Sommaren med Monika; drama, Sweden, 1953; D: Ingmar Bergman, S: Harriet Andersson, Lars Ekborg, Dagmar Ebbesen

Harry (19) and Monika (18) are teenagers in love, but plagued by problems since they work poorly paid, ungrateful jobs in a storage and a vegetable store, respectfully. They also do not have a peaceful place to make love, since they still live with their parents. Fed up with her alcoholic father, Monika persuades Harry to escape from the city in a boat and spend the summer in a deserted beach. However, they run out of money and Monika even resorts to stealing food from a house. Upon finding out she is pregnant, they return home. She gets a baby, but gets bored with her housemaid life, yearning for adventure and money which the poor Harry cannot afford. She leaves him and he is left with the baby alone.

One of Ingmar Bergman's "lesser films", "Summer with Monika" is nonetheless a refreshing entry in his filmography since it departs from his routine existentialist themes and instead just presents a light, simple story about two teenagers in love who escape to spend the summer alone in nature, though the director's trademark dark observations about human alienation and isolation still "tick in" in the pessimistic ending. It seems Bergman tried to deliver a modern, "hip" film about the lives of the youth, evident even in a few untypically comical moments for him: for instance, Harry and Monika start making out at his home, lying on the couch, but are then interrupted when they hear his father entering the room. The couple quickly start putting their clothes back on, while Harry even asks: "Do I look I was just about to do it?" Upon having nothing to eat but mushrooms, Monika laments to Harry: "Mushrooms for lunch, mushrooms for diner... If this keep up, our child is going to be a mushroom, not a human". However, once they escape to spend the summer alone in nature, the movie predictably turns into a "stranded whale", not knowing what to do with them, wasting too much time on empty walk or random episode in order to try to cover up for this overstretched segment, though it received attention for a (timid) scene of Harry observing the naked Monika running towards the sea on the beach, which secured Sweden the title of a "liberal cinema" of Europe. An interesting little film, good, though not great, which seems more like an exercise of the director.


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