Trent Film Society Presents Ingmar Bergman’s Summer with Monika, Thursday, September 27th, 2012
Published in Trent University’s Arthur Newspaper, Monday September 24th, 2012
Summer with Monika (1953) is simultaneously the best date film and the worst.
On the one hand we have the story of Monika and Harry, two young lovers who throw off the shackles of their everyday work and family life to travel the Swedish archipelago by houseboat. At first they welcome the freedom: we see extreme close-ups of their beautiful faces, lips gliding across cheeks, long-shots of dancing and laughter (reminding us of Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek in Terrence Malick’s Badlands ), and skinny dipping in some of the most eye-pleasing landscapes ever caught on film. Summer with Monika warms our hearts, and Ingmar Bergman with his choice of setting, bright lighting, attractive leads and close-ups, knows better than any other director how to do it ease. Jean-Luc Godard noticed Bergman’s excellence before he shot his own feature. He wrote in 1958: “Bergman is the film-maker of the instant. His camera seeks only one thing: to seize the present moment at its most fugitive, and to delve deep into it so as to give it the quality of eternity.”
On the other hand, in typical Bergman fashion, the enjoyment Monika and Harry share that summer quickly crumbles: they run out of food, the nights grow cold, and an unexpected pregnancy occurs. The brief summer of happiness dissipates when the lovers must return to civilization to marry and raise their child. It is impossible, Bergman wishes to say by the end of the film, to reconcile youth and stability. Such could not be more apparent when Monika, sitting in a cafe on a rare night out, has the camera zoom tight to her provocative face while the background behind her fades to black. Ominous to be sure.
Shyly ask your crush to see this film, as Harry does with Monika at the beginning of the story. You will forget your troubles leading up to it. In an ecstatic daze you will day-dream about a hand that just might be held and a cheek that just might be kissed – again like Harry after Monika agreed to a date. And after you have seen Summer with Monika together, flee to a romantic location, for the night or the next few weeks. When you have returned, no more happy than when you left (but certainly much wiser), do not place the blame on Bergman but appreciate his art: he helped you live in the present with a person you adored.