For Reel

Summer with Monika (1953)
February 3, 2016, 7:30 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Ingmar Bergman
3.5 Stars
Summer with MonikaIn the last scene of Summer with Monika, a dutiful father (Lars Ekborg) stares at himself in a mirror at the very spot where his ex-wife (Harriet Andersson) had stood earlier in the picture. Echoing the famed shot of Andersson in which she breaks the fourth wall as the background slowly fades into darkness, Ekborg is left illuminated in a similar void as his memories take him back to the island where he spent the eponymous romantic getaway that resulted in his child. Moments later, he is brought back to reality, the setting comes into light and focus once more, and in reflection he sees his sold belongings being paraded down the street. This scene not only revels in Ingmar Bergman’s lasting fascination with the face, but also in the collapsing of memories and lives. A mirror becomes a symbol of timelessness–past and present coexisting at once, memories coming to vividly to life and eulogized in this brief montage which suggests the impermanence of happiness. It feels like the only honest and earned moment in the entire epilogue, which finds the lovers back in the real world and dealing with a specifically Bergman type of miserablism. It is not that the portrayed cynical reality is unrealistic, but that it so shepherds in conventions of domestic melodrama that it all but obscures everything that has come before it. Monika is no more the complex, damaged heroine, but a vitriolic, ungrateful housewife. Regardless of that crucial inconsistency, the final shot anticipates the beautiful richness of many of Bergman’s images to come, and the time spent on the island is memorably rendered as a hugely sensual, but ultimately self-destructive love affair.

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