Summer with Monika Screen 13 articles

Summer with Monika

1953

Summer with Monika Poster
  • Uneven and sometimes clumsy, Monika doesn’t nearly justify Godard’s claims, but it’s easy to see what impressed him. Bergman’s tale of heedless teenage love is a sort of neorealist Rebel Without a Cause—except that sex is acknowledged and the outlaw is a girl. In her rejection of all domestic responsibility, motherhood included, Monika‘s uninhibited, impulsive, working-class protagonist is a natural foe of bourgeois morality.

  • Even as the story spirals out of control with surprisingly Huck Finn-ish social didacticism, the photography remains spookily pellucid, almost shadowless, as if suggesting that there’s little within Harry and Monika that isn’t being illuminated. This, too, is what makes those later fourth wall-breaking shots so curious. We know these characters and their motives; they’ve been exposed to us almost forensically. Yet their faces still challenge us, still dare us to be sure that we know them.

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    Arts: Jean-Luc Godard
    July 30, 1958 | Godard on Godard (pp. 84-85)

    The use today of such outmoded tricks is audacity on Bergman's part. As used by the director of Summer with Monika, those mannered compositions, those bizarre angles, those shots of clouds, lakes, undergrowth, are not gratuitous camera tricks or technical virtuosity. On the contrary, Bergman always manages to integrate them into the psychology of the characters at the precise instant when he must evoke a precise feeling.

  • This is the first of nine films the former stripper Harriet Andersson made with Bergman, and one of the most sensual. Her long, cinematic close-up in which she seems to stare directly at the audience, almost daring it to pass judgment on her behavior, is alone worth the price of admission.

  • The association of female sexuality with the natural order might be hard to take if Bergman didn’t complicate the cliché with such unexpected depth. With her vulgar manners and sudden cruelty, Monika comes across as a difficult, even impossible heroine, which seems very much to Bergman’s point. We can judge her if we so choose, but he refuses, as evident from the justly famous shot in which she looks directly into the camera for about 30 long seconds.

  • Young romance as a gorgeous season that inevitably fades, the Muse as the fickle bitch Ingmar Bergman can’t stop thinking about. . . . Andersson's half-feral insolence, her ampleness, her flitting movements across the coastal rocks and her irritable idleness in the struggling couple’s apartment are watched with rapt captivation, and yet her Monika remains too volatile to just settle into an idealized siren.

  • Bergman, imbuing the film with a lyricism both unrushed and lapidary, allows us to drift alongside Harry and Monika. Gunnar Fischer’s black-and-white photography, alert to subtle gradations of natural light, conveys the feel of the breeze and sun and water on their skin. Everything — their lazy nuzzling; Monika waking in the morning, relieving herself and then making fresh coffee for Harry — is natural and unforced.

  • Monika’s long look at the camera — it lasts for about 30 wordless seconds, an eternity in the movies — is sometimes cited as a great moment of modernist filmmaking. . . . And yet it represents a kind of turning away from the kind of cinema represented by Sjostrom — a moment that rejects the world of experience in favor of a theatrical device. . . . A lot begins for Bergman with “Summer With Monika,” but perhaps something ends there, too.

  • The erotic portrayal of young love in Ingmar Bergman’s Summer with Monika (1953) remains powerful to this day. . . . It is a key film in Bergman’s career, solidifying his move toward an increased focus on women’s perspectives—the attention given to Monika’s dreams provides a fresh challenge to the themes of escape and compromise he’d been developing in his work.

  • It remains a film of remarkable freshness and vitality – crossed with a melancholic, even bitter vision. . . . One enduring appeal of the film is perfectly clear in the 21st century: it is a model teen movie, in not only its plot and characters, but also its entire style and mood.

  • The recent DVD release by Criterion finally makes available to American audiences one of Bergman’s very best films and perhaps his most influential—for European filmmakers, if not American ones. The movie’s frank eroticism resulted in its release here, in the mid-fifties, in mutilated form as an exploitation film. In France, however, it provided the (young male) film critics who would become the directors of the French New Wave with an inspiring model of intimate realism.

  • Andersson imbues the role with an energy that is both preternatural and wholly organic. When Harry jumps and shouts and acts wild, it’s a performance. He is playacting rebellion. Monika seems at home in that wildness. Freedom suits her. However we might judge her final act, it’s impossible to spend an hour and a half watching her live, so naturally and irresistibly, and wish to see that freedom tempered.

  • With this film, indeed, over the course of its 96-minute runtime, one sees a progression from the perfectly capable Bergman before, to the more profoundly reflective Bergman to come. Certainly, there would still be lighter fare in the Bergman canon — the back-to-back A Lesson in Love (1954) and Dreams (1955), as two immediate examples — but like the tragically quixotic youth of Summer with Monika, Bergman’s cinema had entered a phase of pronounced maturity.

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