Ben Oliver

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Summer with Monika

Spring is here, did you notice?
14 July 2023

A young couple (Harriet Andersson, Lars Ekborg) fall in love and run away from their lives, spending the summer on a small boat.

Bergman paints a pretty picture of young, reckless love and then under his steely Scandi gaze burns it to the ground and shatters the dream.

Stylistically it’s not as flash as his later work but in a way it lets the story and characters take centre stage rather than showing the hand of the director too much.

Apparently the level of nudity was quite controversial over in America at the time. I guess people in USA 1953 really hated naked ladies because this is pretty benign. Not everybody though because, funnily enough, it was bought and cut together as an exploitation flick called “Monika, the Story of a Bad Girl” - an hour long feature with a focus on the nudey bits (which has to be at most 15 seconds long). By modern standards this is far more slimy.

I shouldn’t mock the American prudes too much though. There is something about the way Bergman shoots Andersson, perhaps for about 30 minutes of the film, that betrays his infatuation with her. There’s a couple of overtly pervy shots that arguably show Harry’s feelings towards her, but the sort of background feel to the whole thing seems a lot more personal. Less of the male gaze and more of “this guy’s massive crush”.

Anyway, I liked it. Good film. 8/10. This Bergman guy should make some more.

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