Harry Lund (Ekborg) is a young man in his late-teens from a working class family in Stockholm. One summer day, he meets Monika (Andersson), a stunning, sexually precocious young woman from a similar background, and the sparks fly. In between heavy petting sessions, they commiserate about their depressing, dysfunctional family lives. Impulsively, they decide to break free. Harry steals his father’s small boat and the couple escapes to an island in the Stockholm archipelago. At first, it’s a lush, liberating, wildly romantic experience, but soon enough, the relationship starts to sour as boredom (and a lack of food) take hold. Then Monika gets pregnant, forcing them back to their drab lives. Harry is content enough, but the immature, needy Monika feels trapped and yearns for a more glamorous life. Will these two make a go of it?
Director Bergman’s breakthrough film remains one of his most accessible, relating a tale of doomed young love with insight and sensitivity. Though its brief, artful nude scenes caused a sensation at the time, by today’s standards the film is downright subtle. Still, the film brilliantly romances the sensuality of youth, and Bergman makes the most of star Andersson’s glorious face and form, aided by Gunnar Fischer’s gorgeous black and white cinematography. If for no other reason, see this for her. The story itself feels universal, as the rapture of youthful beauty and sexuality gives way to real-life consequences which these young adults are ill-equipped to handle. As an early but important entry in the Bergman canon, we recommend spending the summer with “Monika,” or any other season.