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The Summer with Monika

Sensual rebellion
By STEVE VINEBERG  |  January 16, 2008
3.5 3.5 Stars
Harriet Andersson and Lars Ekborg

Harriet Andersson, Ingmar Bergman’s first great leading lady, is the title character in this 1953 film (which the Brattle Theatre is showing in a new restored print), a teenager who combines a scruffy working-class sensuality with a slightly preposterous romanticism derived from Hollywood movies. She sees her beau, Harry (Lars Ekborg), as “a guy out of a movie,” but he’s just an ordinary fellow. It’s she who makes the first move, in his parents’ home, though their lovemaking has to be put off when his dad comes home early. What brings these two together is a natural rebellion against the oppressive workaday world, but they can’t get away from it — they marry and have a child and get swallowed up by it all over again. Ekborg has an affecting moment when Harry looks at his baby daughter for the first time and realizes in a terrified flash what he’s in for. Monika is essentially selfish: she doesn’t want to take care of a child, she’d rather have a new coat than bother with the rent, and, inevitably, she cheats on Harry. But Andersson and Bergman make her sympathetic nonetheless. When she cries about how her life has turned out — they never have enough cash, she’s afraid that poverty and motherhood have turned her ugly — you understand her plight, how life has caught and pinned her. But your final tears are for Harry, whom Monika leaves, again predictably, to raise the child on his own. We see him for the last time in a grown-up overcoat and a grown-up hat, this teenage boy from the early scenes, now aging fast, and his eyes widen as he remembers their brief summer idyll, such a short while ago. Swedish | b&w | 96 minutes | Brattle: January 18-24
Related: Ingmar Bergman, Perversion, introversion, Aging warnings, More more >
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