For my second installment of the WORLD CINEMA series, how about we have a stroll through Sweden’s working class towns with Ingmar Bergman’s Summer with Monika (1953)?
A refreshingly honest look at teenage love beyond its summer timeframe, Summer with Monika follows a young teenage couple, Harry (Lars Ekborg) and Monika (Harriet Andersson) as they spend an idyllic summer together sailing on Harry’s father’s boat, away from their hometown, family and boring jobs. When the summer comes to an end, however, and Monika discovers she’s pregant, they are left with the growing responsibilities that neither of them could have predicted.
Summer with Monika has one of Bergman’s simplest plots while holding so much meaning at the same time and exploring its contrasting elements effectively: Monika’s carefree rebellion vs Harry’s responsible easy-going attitude, the town’s old-fashioned ways vs the couple’s desire to be free, and, of course, the longing for a summer love affair vs what happens when it’s over and life returns… Framed by some of the most gorgeous cinematography ever put on film, Summer with Monika puts Harriet Andersson right in the middle of it, with its candid depiction of sensuality and nudity, which was very controversial at the time. Not only that but it also deserves credit for making its main character unlikeable, unashamed and human. In one of the movie’s most devastating scenes, Monika dares you to judge her with an intense, piercing look at the camera that takes the whole ‘breaking the fourth wall’ motif to a whole new level! In a word, stunning.