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SUMMER WITH MONIKA, 1953
Movie Review

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SUMMER WITH MONIKASUMMER WITH MONIKA, 1953
Movie Review

Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Harriet Andersson, Naemi Briese
Review by Russell Hill



SYNOPSIS:

A young man embarks on a summer romance with a reckless teenager.

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REVIEW:

An admirer of Bergman for many years, this movie was highly recommended by a former University professor who pronounced it as the finest ever to be directed by the great man, and that is including “The Seventh Seal”. Intrigued to say the least, I tracked it down and could see no reason as to see why this recommendation was not a foolish one.

Harry (Ekborg) is a man going nowhere. In a dead-end job with no prospects whatsoever, his life doesn’t look all that good. That is until he meets Monika (Anderson) who doesn’t give a damn about what she says or does. They soon strike a relationship, and decide to sail away using a boat that belong to Harry’s father. They find an island to spend the summer on, but lo and behold Monika becomes pregnant and they have to sail back to the mainland with their tails between their legs. Well, Harry does but Monika cares neither for Harry or their newborn. Will Monika become the mother required of her child, or will this leopard not change her spots for anyone?

I do confess that I have not seen all films directed by Ingmar Bergman, but this is the finest and certainly pleasant I witnessed. His films are often described as taking themselves too serious. This sentiment is shared by myself, but in terms of technical achievement you cannot fault the man. You can’t help feeling that the character of Harry is the screen portrayal of Bergman, and Monika being a love he once had. The direction is done in such a tender manner that the subject matter seems very personal and certainly an achievement to say the least.

The acting too is quite remarkable. In films made during this time, the so-called tough feminine character was quite laughable. But here, the character of Monika is acted rather well. Her sultry eyes and small frame add to Monika’s feistiness, and as the narrative progresses her sexuality becomes quite prominent. Hers is a very provocative manner, which one cannot help thinking that such acting is lacking in contemporary cinema. Being a person of the male sex, I should applaud the modern day representation of nudity but, to be honest, it can be quite tiresome. What the mind can imagine is much more entertaining than seeing a naked pair of boobs or the imagery of a panty-less ass. On not one occasion is any nudity shown in the movie, and it is down to the acting rather than the imagery which gives off this feeling of heightened sexuality.

The scientific fact that men mature slower than women is certainly evident here in the character of Harry. Merely a boy with facial hair at the beginning, Harry really does mature over the course of the movie that at the end he is a fully fledged man who could stand up to the manliest of people. It is safe to say that at the beginning of the movie he is wet behind the ears, but due to Monika his personality changes due to partaking in mature activities. As like me, he is not the tallest of gentlemen and suffers somewhat from Napoleon Complex. But, as with any confident short in stature man, this doesn’t bother him and towards the conclusion could take on Muhammad Ali and defeat him with the simplest of punches. Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee could be easily accomplished. This character transformation is quite remarkable, and an achievement for Ekborg who at just 27 acts beyond his years. It is a shame to read that in 1969 Ekborg passed away from liver cancer. Who knows what this man could have achieved by now.I for one would like to have seen the answer to that.

With all the hallmarks of a young romance movie with the added genius touch of Bergman, “Summer with Monika” is a sleeper classic that many Bergman fans and the general public might not have got round to seeing. Such wrongs should most certainly be righted.

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