Summer with Monika (1953) Poster

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One of Bergman's best films (major spoilers below)
zetes20 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Film lovers with a slightly more than rudimentary knowledge of the subject recognize that Ingmar Bergman was active long before he directed The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries. Still, few of those earlier films are known that well, besides perhaps Smiles of a Summer's Night (which I don't care for much myself, though I owe it a reassessment). In 1953 Bergman made two of his greatest works, Sawdust and Tinsel and Summer with Monika (distributed in the US as simply "Monika," but I prefer to use the entire title, as it just sounds better). Sawdust and Tinsel, as I say, is another masterwork; do see it. But it is not the issue at hand here.

Summer with Monika has a classic art film story behind it: Bergman came up with the idea quickly, having gotten some money, and he just took his few actors and crew on a summer vacation with very little planning involved. What results is a simple story, but one that is very mature and emotionally complex. Two teenage lovers escape the tyranny of their parents. Stealing a boat, they travel around the southern islands of Sweden together, revelling in their adolescent lust. A few things happen along the way, but they aren't really worth mentioning. Not that these events are unimportant, only that to describe them would not be useful here; they ought to be experienced as they happen.

What makes this film a masterpiece is the third act. Teenage love is often so idealized by artists, born from an air of irresistable nostalgia. Maybe Ingmar Bergman was too much of a pessimist for his characters to find neverending happiness by the time the film fades out. Harriet Andersson, a Bergman regular, of course, plays Monika. There is a love in her, and she may even really love Harry (played by Lars Ekborg) when they set out together. On the other hand, part of it is she just wants the experience of an adventure, of independence from her cluttered and sad homelife and parents, of love, and, not least of all, of sex. Monika is, first and foremost, a sexual being. Andersson is not exploited, though, as she so easily could have been (French actress Brigitte Bardot provides the best example of just how an actress' career can be harmed by these kinds of highly sexual roles). Andersson arouses the audience, but Bergman is careful (as he is with all of his women) not to make her into some cheap male fantasy. We want Harriet Andersson, yet we realize that she is not to be had. She is her own person.

This manifests itself in a pretty nasty way in the third act. Eventually, as the summer begins to fade, Harry decides that the two of them cannot spend the rest of their lives drifting around on a boat. They also have realized that Monika has become pregnant. Bergman thus eschews the type of ending where the two return home, maybe in love maybe not, and that's that. Instead, he gives these two characters a reality check. Harry jumps into it with gusto, marrying his sweetheart and getting a decent job. When his child is born, he is overjoyed. Unfortunately, Monika (who is two years younger than Harry, at 17) cannot make the same leap. This monotonous, routine life which she was hoping to escape falls back down on her. The fact that she has a child annoys her: no longer is she free to do what she chooses. And her lust is now left unsatisfied: Harry sees her as the beautiful mother of his child, not so much as his lover anymore. Ultimately, because Harry is away so much with his work, Monika's lust breaks loose. In the film's most memorable scene, she picks up a new boyfriend at a bar. Bergman allows her to look straight into the camera, one of the earliest examples of a filmmaker breaking the fourth wall. Monika looks into our eyes, and we see the pain, fear, and loneliness she has acquired. The shot is held for what seems like forever, even though it comprises only a few seconds.

Monika leaves Harry and their baby. The film ends with Harry alone, staring at himself and his child in the mirror. He is hurt, that is certain, but I do not believe that he judges her too harshly. After all, he does understand Monika and her temperament. As he remembers the beauty of the summer he and Monika shared, he cradles in his arm the only physical evidence left of that time. It's a sad ending, but, with the warmness we see in Harry's expression, we know that the child will be much loved by its father. Life continues.
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Great movie. Sensitive and solid story, very good performances.
fer-423 October 1998
It is a very sensitive and solid story about love and loss. It fascinates you from the beginning, first of all because of the beauty of the images and then by the credibility of the characters. There's also plenty of small human details which together make a whole masterpiece (The moment that Monika turns and stares to the camera is one of them). Strangely enough, this movie is never mentioned among the best made by Bergman. But it is a great movie.
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a sleeper-classic, naturalistic, with trademark-Bergman imagery
MisterWhiplash10 January 2005
Summer with Monika is a very fine, sometimes masterful showcase of what would be to come with Ingmar Bergman's more notable and personal dramas. That is, in the technical side of things; here he uses a lot of shots that are simply there for the location, the imagery of the rocks and beach and waters where the characters are at. It's much more in a sense of a documentary of these two people than a usual tale of young love. But it's a good story at the core, and in it Bergman also establishes one of the actresses that would become crucial to his career.

Harriet Andersson is remarkable as the happy, though high strung and (as one in my generation might call) 'needy' Monika, who works at a vegetable stand. She meets Harry (Ekberg) in a bar one day, and the two hit it off after later seeing a movie. Monika's home life is the pits, as is Harry's work environment. So, they act on an impulse to get away for the summer to an island. Out of that comes what is very natural in a relationship- happiness, love, despair, hunger, and the oncoming (unplanned) child. The third act goes as how one might expect, but the way it's filmed and acted is still extraordinary.

Once Bergman gets his film on the water, he just shoots and shoots. Some of this may not seem to go anywhere, some of it may just seem like shots of animals and rocks. But I have a feeling Bergman was likely inspired by either painters or the neo-realists with their documentary feel. If nothing else, everything feels very much alive and real with how the characters talk and act to each other, and that doesn't lose its ground after fifty years.

Some shots here and there (one when Monika is out one night, when Harry is not at home, is intriguing on how it just stays on her, and how it's lit) are some of the more memorable ones of the 1950's for the director. I also liked how the characters were believably stuck in the middle of a very plausible dilemma- do they keep on going on with a great, bit love affair alone and off from civilization, or do they face up to what they have to do with living? It's a tragic, somewhat obvious conclusion, but the way it's told is how it scores some points.

Basically, Summer with Monika is a fresh, dark love story that may appeal to those looking for a good alternative to a film of today loaded with cynicism or delight in the shrill conventions with the characters. One may have seen characters like Monika and Harry in other films, yet they are fitting for the style of Bergman's precise bittersweet whimsy and depth.
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A classic in a pristine new print from Janus
Chris Knipp30 September 2006
Ingmar Bergman's Monika (Summer with Monika) (1953) is the story of two Stockholm teenagers, stock boy Harry (Lars Ekborg) and voluptuous, impulsive Monika (Harriet Andersson), who meet and fall in love and run away for a summer on a motorboat on the Stockholm archipelago escaping from work and all responsibility. Monika becomes pregnant and they return to the city and marry – but things turn bad. This first powerful feature by the Swedish master is simple and sweet but nonetheless rich in emotional wrenching events. The film, which depicts teenage unwed sex, was shockingly sensual for its time. In 2006 the intensity of Harriet Andersson's uninhibited performance is still impressive and this story is just as heartbreaking as it was over half a century ago.

Presented as part of the Janus Films sidebar of the 2006 New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center in another gorgeous pristine-looking new print with a rich black and white tonal range that may look better than the original did.
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The Time with Monika
zolaaar15 June 2008
Nouvelle vague from Skandinavia. It is one of those films in Bergman's oeuvre which hasn't completely lost the hope for the good and love yet and from that period, Sommaren med Monika is probably his most impressive work. The film is an ode to the vitality and joie de vivre of the youth, about it's rebellion and breaking out, exploring and checking and therefore, compared to Bergman's sixties, a pretty hopeful take on life. For the first half at least, until the couple is confronted with reality after a few days of liberation and from now on, they have to suffer the loss of their courage, spirit of adventure, the faith in each other and consequently the loss of their young love. The wonderful time with Monika does not remain - the only thing everyone can bank on.

It's remarkable, now from a perspective of more than 50 years ahead, how this film is (also) a homage to Harriet Andersson. At that time, there hardly was a similarly fresh, natural and at the same time sublime appearance in Europe's auteur cinema. With every shot, Bergman and cinematographer Gunnar Fischer capture her beauty and lightness perfectly. In one of the earliest nude scenes of European cinema they underline her innocent naturalness and love for nature, a naturalism in acting which is Andersson's strength when you think of the death scene in Cries and Whispers or the madness of Karin in Through a Glass Darkly. Her face, her entire guise stands, next to Liv Ullmann's, Bibi Andersson's or Ingrid Thulin's, for more than half a decade of superb Swedish cinema history.
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Turning Point in Bergman's Life
marquis de cinema2 April 2001
A sad tale of two lovers who meet in a high emotional state and break up because the lady, Monika becomes bored with the relationship. About the highs and lows of love. Very beautiful in depicting the relationship between Harry and Monika. Its easy to sympathize with Harry because no matter how hard he tries to make Monika happy he always seems to fail. It was during the filming of this movie that Ingmar Bergman left his wife for the actress, Harriet Andersson(an act which he would regret and influence him for the rest of his career). This act would greatly influence Wild Strawberries(1957), Persona(1966), The Touch(1971), Cries & Whispers(1972), and would inspire the Liv Ullman film, Faithless. The director delivers a film of powerful emotions and raw feelings. Harriet Andersson is magnificent as the title character. Sommaren Med Monika/Monika(1953) is the first of many great motion pictures for the legendary filmmaker and visual poet, Ingmar Bergman.
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A subtle and beautiful movie
metamorfosisnet19 January 2001
Why should you see this movie? I can think many reasons: Because it has beautiful and perfect scenes, because it was made in the 50's and it's amazingly contemporary, because the characters are extremely interesting... This kind of movies shows us that there's no need to spend 10 million dollars to produce a film... It proves us that a simple story, with a simple production can be more transcendental than a film that cost millions.

The story is simple, but it forces us to think about freedom, love, oppression, decision, and about the things we can or cannot change about ourselves and the others. As a conclusion, I can say that seeing this movie is a worthy experience.
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Simple movie with mesmerizing scenes
This is the first Bergman movie I comment on. Not because it's one of his best, it's definitely not, imo. And not because it's one of my favorite Bergman movies, because it's not.

This film is not your typical Bergman movie. It belongs to his early career, and there is not much about religion or subtle symbolisms. It's just a simple beautiful movie which makes you think, not with sorrow, but with love. There are so many beautiful and original scenes, and the movie is so contemporary - it's definitely underrated.

I would say this is one of the best works belonging to his early career. It's simplicity and true beauty will leave you thinking about it for a long time and keep you returning to it again and again.

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A film that delights and horrifies
Ilpo Hirvonen22 June 2010
Sommaren med Monika, often translated as Monika, the Story of a Bad Girl, but directly it is Summer with Monika, I prefer the latter. Summer with Monika is Ingmar Bergman's early masterful classic. It's European modernism and as many of Bergman's films of that era, this film too dealt with social issues. Even that Ingmar Bergman himself was from a bourgeois family, Summer with Monika builds around the working class. It's a story about two youngsters who fall in love and start living a life of their own.

Monika is a minor girl who doesn't get along with her parents. Her only escape from the harsh family life is romantic cinema and her boyfriend, Harry. In result of the distressing life Monika and Harry escape the city to archipelago for the summer. When the summer's over and they come back, the love between them starts to fade.

I have yet not seen as strong film about young parenthood as this. It shows the truth in a very realistic light, Bergman doesn't add any glamor to its characters' lives, which he never does. This is the social theme of Summer with Monika, young parenthood and the subject is still very current, which makes the film timeless. No director of today has succeed in making as good description of the life like that.

Summer with Monika is so beautifully made that it delights you. The plot also has some points that delight the audience, but I was mostly touched by the beauty of the narrative and cinematography. Both of these are clearly European modernism in Summer with Monika. The camera goes behind the reality, it shows the true emotions of the characters. A very impressive scene of the film is when Monika watches directly to the camera. This shocking destruction of the fourth wall and the illusion of cinema, was probably the first one ever made. My information of this is not accurate or reliable, but at least Summer with Monika was one of the first ones, that did this.

A very powerful film of love, youth, parenthood, frustration and life.
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A good film, but the subtitles could have been better
alan-46718 December 2005
I saw this film way back in about 1972 (when it was already nearly 20 years old) and thought it was very good (I had recently had a not-too-dissimilar experience with a Swedish girl - happily without the consequences of a resulting child!), so bought a copy of the DVD when I noticed it in my local store.

I still like it a lot and would recommend it to anyone, but wanted to comment about the subtitles on my DVD copy. I am British, but, because I have lived in Sweden, I can understand most of the film without needing the English subtitles and it struck me that the subtitles miss out a lot that is relevant to the story. Even the translation of the title isn't strictly accurate - "Sommaren med Monika" should really be translated as "THE Summer with Monika", emphasising the fact that the affair only lasted for one Summer - a subtle but important nuance. Most Swedes are better in English than I am in Swedish, so I would appreciate knowing whether they agree with me. I suppose that it is inevitable that there are always subtleties that are lost in translation.
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Reaching the Maturity
Claudio Carvalho16 May 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Harry Lund (lars Ekborg) is a nineteen years old young man who meets Monika (Harriet Andersson), a romantic, reckless and rebel seventeen years old teenager and both fall in love for each other. They live their families and jobs in their small town, Harry gets his father's boat and they spend the summer together in an isolated island. Monika gets pregnant, and Harry decides to get married with her. He grows-up, gets a job and return to the studies, trying to improve their lives and raise their daughter June, while Monika just wants to have fun. An inevitable separation happens in the end.

In this romance, Ingmar Bergman returns to the theme of "Sommalek", love between youngster, giving a different approach. The beautiful story is disclosed through a beautiful cinematography, showing Harriet Andersson very sexy and daring, for a 1953 movie. Unfortunately, for the Brazilian viewers, the VHS from Continental distributor is awful, having black stripes covering the subtitles in English. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): 'Monika e o Desejo' ('Monika and the Desire')
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While this Swedish forebear of the British kitchen sink dramas entertains, it is not among Bergman's greatest work
Christopher Culver22 April 2015
In Ingmar Bergman's 1953 film SOMMAREN MED MONIKA (The Summer with Monika), young, idealistic Harry (Lars Ekborg) meets the freespirited Monika (Harriet Andersson). Fed up with their dull stockroom jobs as midsummer approaches, they quit and and escape together to one of the myriad islands in the Stockholm archipelago. But while Harry is keen to get back to civilization and further his education in order to support the child they will soon have, Harriet thinks little of the future, pursuing her own whims of the moment. Harry is definitely the protagonist here, and receives the sympathy of the viewer as this bad girl tears his life apart.

Upon its release, this film was a major contribution to Sweden's mid-century reputation as a sexually liberated place. However, that's all very much in the past. There is only one scene of (rear) nudity, and for the most part what 1950s audiences found scandalous is just some snogging that wouldn't raise eyebrows today. Still, Andersson does know how to flaunt her sex appeal, her full lips and proportioned figure, to the camera.

In my opinion, this is not one of the greatest films of the auteur scene. Ingmar Bergman would go on to create a series of masterpieces that totally shook my world, but SOMMAREN MED MONIKA is a somewhat ordinary study of working class life and a morality tale much like British audiences would start getting with their kitchen sink dramas (e.g. BILLY LIAR) in the following years. There is also a totally contrived -- and rather inexplicable -- fight scene that Bergman needlessly uses to make Harry look chivalrous. Still, it is interesting to see a Sweden of severe class divisions that is now almost gone, with alcoholism-stricken families in dire poverty living alongside more fortunate Stockholm residents who keep servants. The first third of the film is almost like listening to an Allan Pettersson symphony.

All in all, the film is entertaining and teaches us something about an earlier time and place, but don't think this is one of the more serious films that established Ingmar Bergman as one of the most daring and insightful filmmakers of the 20th century.
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The Story of Romeo and Juliet Told by Bergman
Galina5 November 2004
Warning: Spoilers
What started as a story of idyllic summer of love and journey, shared between very young Harry and Monica, became an interesting study of relationship that had to survive the demands of real world after the journey was over.

I kept thinking while watching this film what would've happened to Romeo and Juliet (who were close by age to film's heroes Monica, 17 and Harry, 19) had they been given a chance to live happily ever after. Would they be able to love each other after the reality of marriage would fight with their eternal love, when the baby is crying all night long and there is no money to pay a rent, and young and tender Juliet has learned about power and pleasures of sex but her Romeo is always out working, trying to make enough money to support her and the child? Would Juliet get bored and angry with Romeo for leaving her home alone? Would she start looking for fun elsewhere? Would be Romeo left heartbroken and bitter or would the memories of that unforgettable summer with his Juliet - Monica still stay with him as the best time of his life?

Beautiful film with wonderful Harriet Andersson as a sultry teenager Monica, full of life, rebellious against her boring existence at home, ready for all pleasures of adult life but not ready for responsibilities of a wife and a mother. Will she learn? Will she remember the summer with Harry? Bergman, as usual, does not answer the questions. He never does. He tells the story - we are the ones who are left with unanswered questions.
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Passion and conscience
exorbitante29 August 2005
Monika is going for the Summer of her life. No longer a child she dreams of freedom and living the most of her own existence. She finds herself in the middle of a struggle between her tedious family life and work and the pungent idealistic thoughts that cross her mind. When she finds an ally- Harry, the love between them comes spontaneously and the escape from their misfortune seems possible. And then the summer comes to heat their naked skins as they reveal their bodies and souls to find the freedom they were looking for. As they feel freedom approaching they're caught by human fate. Monika is an adult now, the summer has ended. Ideals are dead and there is no freedom for mortals. Still life goes on. (More life still goes on.) No place for pessimism in this brilliant film by Ingmar Bergman. A very conscientious look into the passage to adulthood, still hopeful as it is firmly connected with the nature of beings, as it is full of passion for life as it is.
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Has its moments
ian_harris14 January 2003
Not the very best Bergman but an intriguing film. Must have seemed very racey in 1953 with a little nudity but primarily because the "heroine" is so morally lax.

Harriet Andersson has been good in everything I have seen her in; this film is no exception.

Lars Ekborg (a Leonardo DiCaprio look alike of sorts) is also very good as the love struck loser Harry.

It is all a pretty pessimistic take on young love, Bergman once again seeming to share Strindberg's harsh take on the female gender.

The film has its moments - the beach scene and the astonishing close up on Monika's unblinking face when she starts fooling around when Harry is away working and Harry's aunt thinks Monika is working.

One to progress to when working through the Bergman canon, but not the place to start.
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Life ages everyone !!!
avik-basu188922 July 2017
For a film which was released in 1953, 'Summer with Monika' has some scenes that are pretty risqué. Bergman uses some eroticism to decorate the intensity of the young love that blossoms between Monika and Harry. This is at its core a coming-of-age film, specially from Harry's point of view. Two youngsters of contrasting attitudes, contrasting backgrounds and contrasting aspirations get attracted to each other and we witness their innocent, yet intensely passionate love affair. They leave the civilisation of the city behind and start exploring life in a new way together in the midst of the wilderness of the country isolated from the general population.

However as it invariably happens, life refuses to allow these youngsters an extended spell of joy and somewhat inevitably, worldly realism starts to eat into romanticism. But as happens with every unhappy reality, this proves to be a learning experience for Harry and it ends up learning something about himself, about others and about life. Some viewers might opine that Bergman goes a little overboard and somewhat vilifies Monika a bit too much, but I think it is a depiction of the reality that awaits everyone who embarks on a journey which requires maturity while still being immature.

'Summer with Monika' includes some of the quintessential Bergman elements like long takes, extended extreme close-ups to underline internal conflict or emotional shift, lingering shots of nature, symbolism, etc. However the metaphors get a bit too on-the-nose at times here. Specially the character of Lelle appears abruptly on multiple occasions without any logic, just to act as a metaphor which is somewhat off-putting.

Harriet Andersson and Lars Ekborg are really good as Monika and Harry respectively. They make their characters as well as their relationship believable and passionate which makes us root for the 'happily ever-after'.

'Summer with Monika' is certainly not one of Bergman's best films. But it does contain some of the masterful touches that Bergman would polish even further to make numerous masterpieces. But even then, I think 'Summer with Monika' deserves to be seen as an early piece of work from one of the masters that has something to say about the brutality of life.
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No masterpiece but essential nevertheless
Martin Bradley5 July 2017
He wasn't always the old glum maestro. Although the young lovers in "Summer with Monika" might have fitted quite easily into a British Kitchen Sink film, this early Bergman is less grim than we later came to expect and although minor, this film has much to admire; it actually reminded me a bit of "A Kind of Loving".

A young Harriet Andersson is Monika and Lars Ekborg is Harry, the boy who loves her enough to want to spend a lot longer than just the summer with her. You might say that for Bergman this is a very simple picture filled with very simple people but Bergman treats them with a fair degree of sympathy. Monika may be just a little tart or simply a young woman trapped in an early marriage while Harry is always seen as trying to do the decent thing and the ending, if not exactly upbeat, is less of a Bergman downer than usual. No masterpiece, then, but an essential part of the canon nevertheless.
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Easy-going Bergman!
oparser3 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
A light, simple, yet beautiful film, still fresh after more than half a century, about young people and about life. There are times in life when you only think of "now and here", enjoying true love, dreams, and freedom, away from the family and from the dumb world, in a boat on the coast during a splendid summer (the original title translates to "Summer with Monika"). And there are other times when life is harsher and you have to take responsibility, or suffer consequences. So, the lesson of life is hard in the end. But the story of Monika and her lover Harry is so much more than a moral tale for yesterday's and today's youth. It is also a summer of impatience, defiance, and rebellion. Monika's naked body, for instance, was a striking image for 1953 audiences, but it still is a cry for liberty from social constraints to today viewers. The Swedish natural scenery also calls for freedom, in sharp contrast to the shady life in town, to family rules, to the violence of men who drink and beat women, to the greedy merchants and employers. At the same time, the film shows us the flip side of total freedom. That is to say you can't just run away from life, but you should, and you can, make it better through commitment and hard work. Don't be afraid of the big names: it's a film by Bergman, but it is fascinating, easy to follow and even very funny at times. My vote is 8 out of 10.
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Considered by many Bergman's first truly important film
runamokprods11 April 2012
The first half recalls Bergman's earlier 'Summer Interlude'. But the second half goes further and explores the 'what if' of the summer romance between teens; moving into parenthood, marriage, and disillusionment.

The acting is excellent, and unlike 'Summer Interlude' these actors look close to the naive age they're playing.

The film's point of view sometimes felt a bit one sided to me with 'bad girl' Monika, from a crude, poor family, less willing to extend herself than her upper-class boyfriend Harry. Of course, along with being selfish she is also the more complex and fascinating character, especially as played by the young Harriett Andersson.

Some critics make the argument – with merit – that the film doesn't judge Monika,the audience does. Indeed, it could be argued that the film is meant to make us question our own judgment of a poor girl who is brought up with dreams of marriage as a glamorous escape, and not just a humdrum existence. It's not for nothing the heroine is obsessed with Hollywood love stories.

Andersson's performance may be the first of the many hyper-real and extremely complex characters in Bergman's body of work, transcending 'type' and moral judgment.

The film was beloved by the French New wave filmmakers, who saw in it's complex attitude (and very brief nudity) a throwing off of the shackles of conventional characters and storytelling.
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Original U.S. Release Had Sensitive Les Baxter Score
carolsco16 January 2000
When this wonderful Bergman film was released in the United States, Les Baxter was commissioned (with Bergman's approval and input) to write a score to add some emotional warmth to this somewhat cool film. The original Swedish version has only a few minutes of music, and virtually all of that is just source music. Baxter's new score proved very effective, and this Bergman film was probably seen by more Americans than any other of his films.

Sadly, the versions now available in the States are missing Baxter's music which adds a very nostalgic, bittersweet quality to the film that is desperately needed. Even Bergman was pleased with Baxter's efforts and wrote him directly, complementing the quality of Baxter's work.

It's too bad that Janus Films doesn't locate the Baxter score and reinstate it onto the soundtrack. This would probably become the most popular of all of Bergman's films if this lovely and heartfelt music was returned to this wonderful film.
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better than most Bergman films and more approachable for the average person
MartinHafer1 November 2005
I've seen a lot of Bergman's films. In my mind, I put them in one of two categories--those that are about death and angst and are prone to causing depression in the viewer, and the rest of his films. This film, though rather somber and sad, is downright ecstatic compared to his later films. There is a tendency for SOME to view these less depressing films as lesser Bergman pictures, but I think this is a big mistake.

Monika is an excellent film. It is a thought-provoking portrait of an immature young woman who is so desperate to escape her home life that she tries to grow up too quickly--jumping headlong into a relationship that skips all the normal niceties and becomes sexually intimate. Like many teens, she and her boyfriend think they can overcome all their obstacles (such as age, immaturity and lack of jobs) and everything will just "work out". Thankfully, the writers showed what REALLY would happen in a case like this--initial infatuation and delirium followed by reality, then boredom and ultimate disaster.

Despite a little bit of nudity, this would be a fantastic film to show any teen who thinks they know everything and is jumping headlong into a serious and intense relationship before they are emotionally ready.
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Not great Bergman, and dated, but at least it's interesting
Andres Salama7 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
In 1950s Sweden, two young working class kids, still in their teens, the reckless and rebellious Monica and the handsome if quiet Harry, decide to elope from their families in his father's boat and have a torrid affair in an island in the Stockholm archipelago during the summer. When she becomes pregnant, the couple has to return to the city and face reality. Harry gets a stable job and strives to become a responsible parent, but Monica rejects the routine of married life, and eventually the responsibilities of motherhood, because, as she says, being young she prefers to have fun. This film was reputedly extremely daring at the time it was filmed (Monica appears in a few scenes partially nude at the beach) but it really seems almost quaint now. One problem is that films dealing with social issues tend to age quickly, much more so than other type of films. Since social mores change, a film portraying a conflict with the social norms of the era that seems daring at the time it is released looks more and more dated once the social norms are changed. The beginning, portraying Monica fighting with her coarse working class family in their crowded apartment and at their grocer's post, seems to belong to a socialist realism movie. Maybe director Ingmar Bergman was at that point too influenced by the Italian films of the time, but it doesn't look a Swedish milieu at all. Harry is portrayed as the more mature of the two, but at times he is also totally irresponsible, like when he decides to elope with Monica at the moment when his father is gravely ill at the hospital (and what happened to him is never said, apparently he died while the couple were at the island). It is said that Monica became an inspiration to many rebellious girls in the 1950s and 1960s, but I found her character unappealing all way through, not terribly physically attractive and also irresponsible, immature, callous, capricious. And there are some really inept scenes in the movie (yes, I know the scenes were directed by Bergman, but I still would called them ineptly filmed) like when he fights the other guy in the beach or when Monica steals a roasted meat to a middle class family. The movie has a great scene though, that seems to belong to a better and more recent movie, when Monica, after she becomes a mother and is dissatisfied with conjugal life with Harry, flirts in a bar with a new lover and suddenly breaks the fourth wall looking straight at the camera with a seducing look. So this is not a great movie in my view, though at least it gives some material for thought.
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Superb portrait of a young woman who isn't who she appears to be
Turfseer15 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Right before the release of 'Sawdust and Tinsel', which marked the beginning of Ingmar Bergman's long string of profound films with metaphysical themes, he served up 'Summer with Monika', a film more in the tradition of the Italian neo-realists, about a young couple who spend a summer of abandon amongst the islands of the Swedish archipelago, before returning to the city and getting married.

The film's principals, Harry and Monika, are introduced when they meet at a bar. One is struck right away by Monika's liking for Harry—he really doesn't have to do anything and immediately scores a date with her at the local cinema. We soon discover that both young people are very needy. Monika comes from the more lower class background, residing in a tenement apartment with her mother and an alcoholic father, along with younger siblings who can't keep quiet. Harry lives in a bigger home but lost his mother when he was eight and hardly speaks with his father who suffers from health problems.

In the film's first act, Harry and Monika are at the point where they both want to run away as they both hate their jobs. Harry is a delivery person for a glass and porcelain factory and is constantly berated by his superiors as he's often late for work and shows little enthusiasm for the job. Monika works in a produce store and must endure the salacious comments and outright groping by crass co-workers and supervisors. It's understandable how Monika is so immediately attracted to the kindly Harry, as he doesn't treat her as a sex object like many of the men she knows from her side of the tracks.

Perhaps the only unsatisfying aspect of 'Summer with Monika', is the underdeveloped character of Lelle, one of Monika's neighbors who we can presume has either had a prior relationship with Monika or admired her from afar. Out of jealousy he socks Harry in the face out of the blue, after observing him escorting Monika home and saying goodbye. It's an awkward scene because we find out nothing about Lelle before, and wonder simply who this guy is.

The film's second act (where the principals commit themselves to an adventure outside their ordinary lives) occurs after Harry is fired from his job (and Monika quits hers); Harry ends up convincing Monika to take his father's motor boat up to the islands in the archipelago and 'live free' from the constraints of their drab lives back in the city. The cinematography, highlighting the natural wonders of this part of Sweden, is magnificent. The second act machinations include more revelations about Harry's upbringing as well as another awkward scene with Lelle fighting Harry after he attempts to torch their boat (has he been stalking the couple the whole time? Again, he's a character who always seems to be popping up out of the blue without a back story).

One of the great things about Bergman is that you can always count on him for his deeply nuanced female characters. 'Summer with Monika' is basically a brilliant character study about a very young woman who turns out to be quite different than what we're first led to believe. At first, Monika appears quite sympathetic, as she cradles Harry in her arms after he reveals how lonely he was as a child (due to the loss of his mother and distant father).

Even before Monika's sudden transformation, there are clues that she has quite a different temperament than Harry. When Harry is fired, he only brings himself to tip over one glass in the factory, instead of smashing many more glasses as he could have done. When Harry knocks Lelle down during the boating trip, Harry restrains Monika, who could have ended up killing him, by striking him with the oar.

Monika begins to sing a different tune when the intrepid couple find themselves subsisting on mushrooms for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Like a savage animal, she breaks into a well-to-do home on one of the islands and steals a pot roast. The husband calls the police but Monika breaks free and returns to the boat, where Harry chastises her for committing an illegal (and hence immoral) act. Monika has no scruples, and believes that the 'ends justify the means'.

The third act, perhaps the strongest of the film, chronicles the dissolution of Harry and Monika's relationship. They end up marrying due to Monika's pregnancy. She turns out to be the wife from hell as she doesn't want to care for her child and would like to resume the life she had when she was single. Meanwhile, Harry takes steps toward maturity by finding a job, with co-workers who treat him with respect.

Things go from bad to worse, when Harry discovers that she's been sleeping with Lelle and also spent the rent money on an expensive suit. When he asks her why she went to bed with Lelle, she cynically claims that she loves him. Harry then slaps Monika who ends up leaving him. Bergman's portrait of Monika is sympathetic but he doesn't excuse her behavior. In effect, she goes back to the very men she was trying to escape from in the first place. The famous close-up of Monika suggests that she's as empty on the inside as that vacant stare we see on the outside.

On the other hand, when we see Harry close-up in the last scene, we're first treated to a montage of the young father's memories of his summer with Monika. His expression changes from pride in his newborn, to a look of sadness, as he realizes that he has a tough road ahead as a single parent. The brilliance of Bergman is that he never sugarcoats reality. Monika's actions are vile but her difficult upbringing is no excuse for rejecting responsibilities as a mother. Indeed, Bergman is saying, there ARE people like Monika in this world! Deal with it!
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SUMMER WITH MONIKA (Ingmar Bergman, 1953) ***
MARIO GAUCI28 May 2007
Good early Bergman which is surprisingly easy-going for the most part – displaying rare moments of tenderness in its relationship between a young couple. This is probably due to the fact that he didn’t write the script himself – so that the film is generally free of the director’s trademark spiritual probing (often descending into histrionics). However, it does turn sober halfway through (with the couple’s dream of independence having gone sour and their even less happy married life) – and, by the end, the thin plot and deliberate pacing ensure that the film becomes just as tiresome as the typical Bergman outing! Still, there are considerable assets: above all Harriet Andersson’s radiant leading performance (in the first of 11 collaborations with the director – her brief nude scene in this film proved a sensation) and Bergman’s keen perception of the human condition (here also demonstrating an exceptional feel for nature and the remote Scandinavian landscape).
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I do not know if it's enough with two actors to keep the movie
Andres-Camara30 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The actors are great, the majority, but above all the two protagonists. The question is whether this is enough to keep the movie. I think it has several speeds and that is the worst thing I have. Many times in the summer time, it expands on descriptive planes, the exit and entrance, and then the end of the film tells the story of a couple, how he solves his life, how she is fed up and changes her life, And everything at full speed.

If that marks very well as was the world at that time, although I have my doubts that the girls were like that, not even in Sweden.

But I've put a five because although I do not like the film in the end but I think it's done in earnest and pretends to tell something, but it's boring me a lot.


I think the best thing about the film after thinking a lot is the title. I thought because I would be serious and I understand that it is because after all I only spent that time with her.

Although the plane when she dresses and is going to go and flirt and have fun is great. The rest of the movie, I do not like almost anything like it's shot. I do not usually like Ingmar Bergman rolling and this was not going to be less. Saving some loose plane I believe it rather because it wants to make general plans that by vision in front of the camera.
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