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Summer with Monika (1953)

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Summer with Monika (1953) is a rather straightforward Ingmar Bergman film, before he began exploring the heady theological and philosophical questions that make his work so intriguing, and that place him in the pantheon of cinema’s greatest directors.

Two young lovers, Monika and Harry, escape from their enervating jobs in the city.  They find idyllic happiness on a secluded island, living like castaways, with Monika (Harriet Andersson) frolicking naked.  Days seemingly last forever.  Caressing sunlight dances off faces, plants, water. Eventually, rations and patience disappear.  Monika resorts to stealing food, and her personality slowly changes from nice to nasty, as another suitor vies for her attention.

Summer with Monika reminded me of a Hollywood Pre-Code drama, while still maintaining a Euro arthouse vibe, with the cautionary message that free-love and living off the earth eventually crash into the reality of modern life.  Monika’s pregnancy signals the beginning of the end of the couple’s relationship.  The film is notable for Gunnar Fischer’s exquisite black & white photography, and the authentic performances. Lars Ekborg as the honorable and decent Harry garners sympathy.  

While Summer with Monika does not soar, it’s still relevant as a portrait of an emerging auteur.

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I recently ordered this film from Netlix. Three times, in fact. The discs that came had the same defect which prevented a viewing. I ordered replacements three times, but then gave up.

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