Summer with Monkia is an Ingmar Bergman film made relatively early in his career. The film is famous as one of the director’s most influential works, and also for its controversial for the time casual nudity. Bergman tells the story of two teenagers who together temporarily escape the constraints of their mundane working lives.
Arguably the film’s most famous scene involves Harriet Anderson in the titular role of Monika confronting the audience in the top frame grab above. We see Monkia in Ingmar Bergman’s trademark close-up capturing the nuances of her face shaped by her current situation. Her return to day to day life is complicated by a child she never asked for, and she’s lonely because her husband is required to work away in support of this complication, the romance of their summer together a distant memory. She shows contempt for her current situation and seeks solace in lovers. Some of us may judge her for these actions but her gaze confronts us with our judgments, which she collects and returns to us with both satisfaction and apathy.
Later in the film her husband Harry played by Lars Ekborg looks back on his situation, but he is wistful for the romance of their summer and too lost in his own thoughts to be confrontational. A direct contrast, should he look directly at the viewer as did Monika he would be asking for empathy.
Ingmar Bergman: “Our work in film begins with the human face.”
Before and after. We barely need subtitles to read the situation described before the summer when the couple are full of hope, their faces almost literally glowing with the anticipation of adventure.
And after the summer. Neither Monika’s or Harry’s faces have aged but their faces, in sympathy with the film in general, are pained with their new reality. Bergman’s work with the human face doesn’t always require his close-ups.
The status of Harriet Andersson’s stare into the camera as the film’s most famous scene is contentious. Moving outside of filmic to more social circles, the films reputation may owe as much to the two protagonists’ shared tender moment on the beach.
However, even in mid-1950s non-Nordic cultures the exploitative promotional material for the film’s American release seems rather outlandish—the devil controls Monkia the bad girl by radar!
Returning to this blog post’s opening paragraph, Summer with Monika remains one of Ingmar Bergman’s most influential films.
Reference: Summer with Monika – Wikipedia