Monday, 20 August 2012

Summer With Monika - Ingmar Bergman

Continuing with my "odyssey" (I hope that doesn't sound too pompous a term) through some of the films of Ingmar Bergman, I recently viewed Summer with Monika, which was originally released in 1953.

The movie stars Harriet Andersson and Lars Ekborg as young lovers who decide to escape on a boat to enjoy an idyllic sojourn on the Swedish coast and inland waters.

At the beginning of the film we are shown a dreary urban industrial landscape, in fairness the type of dark and shadowy world portrayed in many movies of that era, the "monochrome" 1950s. Both Monika and Harry endure a monotonous existence, and various pressures cause them to yearn for an escape from the constraints and claustrophia, and the small minded mentality of those around them. They both leave their day-jobs, and embark on the boat trip.

The sequences which follow perhaps partly hint at some social trends which were to become more topical and pressing in the ensuing decades; the desire to escape day-to-day conformism and straight society, and live an alternative lifestyle.  This was possibly not a great priority for people in the aftermath of World War Two, even in Sweden.  Popular culture in the main did not catch up with "moving on" until much later....

The nudity and sexual frankness evident in this film may have attracted much notoriety, but to me it hardly added to its appeal.  To be honest, I was more struck by the stunning shots of the Swedish countryside and coastline!

Initially, the two youngsters seem to revel and thrive in their new-found freedom and independence, sneering at the world which they have left behind.  However, all too soon the idyll begins to crumble, and the stark truths of human nature begin to close in.  There is no escaping some bitter realities, such as envy and evil, whatever the mode of living or the backdrop.

Summer may be presented here as a metaphor for something pure and idealistic.  As the season draws to a conclusion, the dream ends, and the venture becomes corrupted, with the pair resorting to theft to sustain themselves. Also, Monika falls pregnant, meaning that burdens and responsibilities begin to encroach. 

They return to the city, matters coming almost full circle, except for the fact that the couple have a child, and in some respects their predicament is more dire than it was to begin with.  Monika eschews total domesticity, the Summer's events having given her a taste for adventure and excitement.

Not as locked in the mind as some of Bergman's other films, but a hard-hitting and quite compelling examination of several aspects of the human condition.....

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