Summer with Monika: Criterion Collection
June 1, 2012
With the one-two punch of Summer Interlude (1951) and Summer with Monika (1953), Ingmar Bergman’s cinema was radically shifting from male-centric worlds to female ones. With this film, he presented two people that temporarily escape into another world via a sensual affair but are ultimately forced to face reality and one’s responsibilities. But what lingers the most is the notion of cherishing the moment because it so fleeting even though it can linger in your memory for years.
Monika Eriksson (Andersson) and Harry Lund (Ekborg) both work at their respective blue collar jobs. By chance, they meet at a restaurant where she bums a match off of him. They get to talking and plan to get together some time after work and see a film. Until then, Harry daydreams about it but in reality the film-going experience ends with her in tears while he yawns in boredom. Afterwards, they get cozier and express their feelings for each other.
One of the first things that becomes apparent is how much more sensual this film is from Bergman’s others. It is conveyed in the way Monika and Harry look and touch each other – in an intimate that suggests two people very much in love. It is also in the way Bergman depicts their signs of affection towards each other that is so sexy, like the way they embrace and how their faces rub together lovingly. Monika undresses in front of him and allows Harry to caress her body as they get to know each other on all kinds of levels – physically, emotionally and so on.
We are also privy to their dreary home lives – for him it is all about work while she lives in a chaotic household with many siblings all vying for attention and no privacy. They both work crap jobs bullied by their respective employers. It’s no wonder they want to hook up and escape this daily grind. So, they share the cramped quarters of a boat in an attempt to cut their respective parents out of the picture. Harry and Monika both quit their jobs and find themselves with much more time to spend together. They go wherever they like thanks to a boat they have access to. They are initially caught up in the rush of quitting their jobs and rebelling against society.
All this time together allows Harry and Monika the time to get acquainted as they talk about growing up, their dreams and aspirations. Their own personal paradise shows the first cracks when Monika tells Harry that she’s pregnant. He immediately wants to do the responsible thing but she’s still caught up in the allure of their forbidden affair. This is further compounded by some nut setting their boat on fire! As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Harry and Monika fall in love, have various misadventures and then reality sets in – she has no spare clothes, the food they have left is awful and they miss their material items, which leads to more arguments. Like with Summer Interlude, Bergman juxtaposes the lovers’ idyllic love affair in Summer with Monika against the harsh reality of the real world. It is the push and pull that Bergman is the most fascinated with in this film. Is it truly possible to be carefree or has society swallowed up all individuality and ground it down with expectations and responsibilities?
Ingmar Bergman introduces the film and talks about his great affection for it. He briefly discusses the genesis of the project. He also touches upon casting Harriet Andersson and how he discovered her.
“Peter Cowie Interviews Harriet Andersson” features the film critic and Bergman scholar sitting down with the legendary actress that runs for 24 minutes. She recalls her first memories of acting, starting with the theater. Naturally, she talks about her initial impressions of Bergman and the bad reputation that preceded him. From there, Andersson tells some filming anecdotes about Summer with Monika.
“Images from the Playground” is a 30-minute behind-the-scenes documentary with on the set footage that sheds some light on Bergman’s working methods. Most of this footage came from a home video camera he used and it captures intimate, unguarded moments with cast and crew.
“Monika Exploited!” explores how Bergman’s film was trimmed down to just over an hour, a jazz soundtrack was added, and it was renamed Monika, the Story of a Bad Girl! for American audiences. This was done because of the racy content that U.S. censors had a problem with. We get a brief history of censorship and the proliferation of exploitation cinema while also touching upon the problems the censors had with Bergman’s film.
Finally, there is a trailer.