Jun 13, 2017

Summer with Monika

Over half a century before the rise of the somewhat pathetic internet culture M.G.T.O.W (aka ‘Men Going Their Own Way’)—a group that has legitimate grievances against modern women yet is becoming the spiritually castrated mirror image of feminism—Swedish master auteur Ingmar Bergman (The Seventh Seal, Scenes from a Marriage) directed an understatedly sexy yet considerably dejecting melodramatic masterpiece depicting many of the loathsome and just downright insufferable qualities of modern Western women. Indeed, Sommaren med Monika (1953) aka Summer with Monika could be described as the very first M.G.T.O.W arthouse flick, but of course that would be selling such a thematically nuanced and aesthetically rapturous film insanely short to associate it with such a depressing movement of forsaken fellows. Starring Bergman’s then-lover Harriet Andersson in a less than flattering role that was specially tailored for her, the film is quite genius in the sense that, like the hapless and hopelessly naïve male protagonist, the viewer finds themselves falling in love with the heroine despite the fact that she is a hyper hysterical, emotionally immature, histrionic, and corrosively narcissistic cunt that never thinks twice about ruining a man’s life for the most petty and self-centered of reasons. In short, Summer with Monika is the kind of film that reminds you why women lived under coverture and were not allowed to vote, own property, or make any real important decisions in the Occident until relatively recently. While I do not want to sound like some defeated misogynist that simply hates all women due to bad personal experiences, I would be lying if I did not admit that the eponymous (anti)heroine is like a composite of all the bad qualities of every girlfriend that I have ever had and I suspect many men, not least of all auteur Bergman, would agree. Quite comparable to Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s somewhat underrated flick Ich will doch nur, daß ihr mich liebt (1976) aka I Only Want You to Love Me in terms of its depiction of a somewhat naïve but well meaning young man learning the hard way that women have no gratitude when it comes to a male sacrificing everything for his wife and family, Bergman's film is a delectable downer that reminds male viewers while most men typically want nothing to do with women if it does not relate to sex. Of course, the fact that the film was made over 60 years age yet features such an insufferably ‘liberated’ modern woman makes it crystal clear why Sweden is probably the mostly collectively feminized, emasculated, and cuckolded nation in the entire world. 

 Undoubtedly, the largely forgotten British Nietzschean philosopher Anthony Ludovici could have also been talking about the female lead of Bergman’s early cinematic masterpiece when he wrote in his classic text Woman: A Vindication (1923), “Whether we appeal to folklore, to the proverbs of the unions, or to the earliest legends of mankind, we invariably encounter the traditional wisdom of humanity judgments upon woman which are more or less unanimous in condemning her bad temper, her disloyalty, her vanity, her malice and her indolence.” Following in the tradition of the similarly themed Hon dansade en sommar (1951) aka One Summer of Happiness directed by Arne Mattsson in terms of fueling Sweden’s dubious reputation as a sexually liberated nation, Summer with Monika also contributed to auteur Bergman’s own questionable personal sexual liberation in the sense that he abandoned his journalist wife Gun Grut and young son Ingmar Bergman Jr. for female lead Harriet Andersson after starting what was ultimately a relatively short-lived romance during the production of the film. Naturally, it should be no surprise that Bergman had very happy memories regarding the making of the film as revealed in his inordinately sentimental remark, “It’s close to my heart and one of my films I’m always happy to see again.” Of course, anyone watching the film can see why it would be so easy for both the lead character and Bergman himself to fall in love with Andersson as she radiates a somewhat idiosyncratic pulchritude that is just as entrancing as it is potentially dangerous, thus making it all the more amazing that the viewer is completely disgusted with the very same dame by the film’s less than comforting conclusion. Indeed, the genius of Summer with Monika is that Bergman manages to trick the viewer into falling in love with and eventually hating the female lead in what is ultimately the cinematic equivalent of a 90-minute romance where the audience experiences the ecstatic highs and crushing lows of young love from the convenience of their sofa without the long lingering effects of lovesick emotional baggage.  Aside from possibly Nicholas Kazan's debut feature Dream Lover (1993) starring Mädchen Amick, you will not find another movie with another lovely lady that you so eagerly learn to love to hate.

 While Bergman once (in)famously stated regarding Godard, “I’ve never gotten anything out of his movies. They have felt constructed, faux intellectual, and completely dead. Cinematographically uninteresting and infinitely boring. Godard is a fucking bore. He’s made his films for the critics,” the overly intellectual frog filmmaker was a great fan of the subversive Swede and paid Summer with Monika a great compliment by describing at as “the cinematographic event of the year” when it was commercially reissued in 1958 in his native France. In the same review, Godard would also rightly note regarding Bergman's film, “Ignored when it was first shown on the boulevards, SUMMER WITH MONIKA is the most original film by the most original of directors. It is to the cinema today what BIRTH OF A NATION is to the classical cinema. Just as Griffith influenced Eisenstein, Gance, and Lang, so SUMMER WITH MONIKA brought to a peak five years before its time that renaissance in modern young cinema whose high priests were Fellini in Italy, Aldrich in Hollywood, and (so we believed, wrongly perhaps) Vadim in France.” Indeed, aside from Vadim’s cocktease classic ...And God Created Woman (1956), it is hard to imagine that many of the lovelorn arthouse melodramas of Godard and Woody Allen would have ever been made were it not for Bergman’s film. As for Bergman, he arguably paid the film the greatest compliment himself when he wrote in regard to it in a publicity piece upon its original release, “I didn’t make Monika. [Source novel author and co-screenwriter Per Anders] Fogelström bred her in me and then, like an elephant, I was pregnant for three years, and last summer she was born with a big ballyhoo. Today, she is a beautiful and naughty child. I hope she will cause an emotional uproar and all sorts of reactions. I shall challenge any different person to a duel!” 

 Although directed by a man that was usually vocally against adapting novels, Summer with Monika was actually adapted from a book by Stockholm-based modernist writer Per Anders Fogelström. Despite its literary origins, the film is indubitably an auteur piece that practically bleeds ravishingly grim Bergman-esque black-and-white as a cinematic work that was clearly directed by a mensch that was hopelessly in love with the hot twat heroine. Indeed, despite only featuring one single nude scene that can hardly be described as pornographic, the film is surprisingly electrifyingly erotic, at least until the heroine turns into an insufferably treacherous bitch and literally cuckolds her beloved in the most cruel and craven of fashions. In fact, the film was deemed so erotic when it was released that American exploitation hack Kroger Babb—a less than charming chap that is probably best known for his scandalous promotion of the pseudo-sex-ed piece Mom and Dad (1945) aka The Family Story directed by William Beaudine—purchased the US rights to the film in 1955, had it edited it down to a mere 62 minutes, and then had it re-titled Monika: the Story of a Bad Girl.  Of course, the Monika of Bergman's film is more of a dumb bitch and morally retarded modern witch than a lovable bad girl.

 Undoubtedly, Summer with Monika male protagonist Harry (Lars Ekborg) probably would have done well to read Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s wise words, “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true,” as he is eventually fooled in both manners. Indeed, right from the get go, it is obvious that the film’s heroine Monika (Harriet Andersson) is the loosest young lady in Stockholm and she lacks the capacity to stay faithful to any man as she is a self-centered and relatively stupid little girl that literally lives to have fun, yet Harry immediately finds it easy to lie to himself about her lack of virtue upon more or less instantly falling in love with her. In fact, it is only when Monika essentially emotionally abandons their baby and fucks various other men in their mutual bed that Harry—a young man that, despite his youth, is totally willing to sacrifice everything for his family—is no longer able to deceive himself and thus confronts the pathologically shifty she-bitch. Of course, it does not start out bad, as Harry can only see the good in Monika when they start dating at the beginning of spring after the latter invites the former to a movie date to see the Robert Schumann biopic Song of Love (1947) starring Paul Henreid and Katharine Hepburn. A deceptively cutesy extrovert with borderline grotesque histrionic tendencies, Monika's a predatory chick that initially approaches poor pussy Harry, as she can sense he is an authentic ‘nice guy’ type and thus can be easily manipulated.  A poor white trash girl that just happens to be blessed with a pretty face and relatively banging body, Monika is not even really worthy of bourgeois boy Harry, but he lacks self-esteem and simply cannot deny the advances of a cute chick that practically throws herself at him.

 As a dude with a long dead mother and emotionally remote father with chronic health issues, Harry is somewhat vulnerable and surely easy prey for a low-class tramp like Monika. Indeed, as the eldest child of a less than cultivated lumpenrpole family headed by an abusive alcoholic father that has no qualms about beating his own young adult daughter when she dares to run her big mouth, Monika naturally wants to flee her pathetic living situation ASAP and she sees meek virgin-boy Harry as the best tool to achieve that fairly realistic goal. Indeed, when her drunken father slaps her one day after she runs her mouth, Monika decides to flee her home with her belongings and then strategically waits outside Harry’s house while sobbing so that she can use emotional sympathy as a means to get what she wants. Despite Harry’s better judgement, Monika manages to convince him to both quit his job and steal his father’s boat so that they can spend the summer basking around the otherworldly oceanic fairly tale realm that is the Stockholm archipelago. In short, Harry and Monika eventually become completely immersed in an inordinately romantic bucolic fairy tale of sorts where they are able to forget all the problems of the worlds and discomforts of being adults, as they have enough food supplies and sexual chemistry to keep each other happy, at least for the length of the summer (apparently, summer only really lasts a maximum of eight weeks in Sweden). Undoubtedly, Monika's love of the exotic and quite ethereal archipelago becomes quite obvious early on when she impresses Harry by stripping off all of her clothes on a rocky coast and then goes skinny-dipping. Of course, the area and its open oceanic spaces make the young lovers feel completely free in both the literal and figurative sense, but their freedom is really just a fleeting illusion as the two are in for a rude awakening when the ruthless reality of adulthood and personal responsibility sets in. Naturally, unexpected pregnancy and a lack of basic resources eventually causes the romance to come to a swift and terribly bitter end.  Unfortunately, poor Harry never sees it coming.

 For most of the summer, it is all fun and games for the two Swedish lovebirds, at least until Monika’s bitterly jealous ex-boyfriend ‘Lelle’ (John Harryson) shows up, destroys most of their belongings, and then sets their boat on fire. On top of everything else, Lelle manages to give Harry a pretty bad thrashing, at least until Monika hits him over the head with a pan. Unfortunately, nice guy Harry shows mercy and stops Lelle from drowning after he is knocked out face-first into the water. With the revelation that Monika is pregnant and their supplies all but nonexistent, Harry wisely recommends that they head back home, but like a petulant toddler the heroine adamantly refuses and states, “No, I’m not going back. I want summer to go on just like this.” When they are left with only mushrooms to eat, Monika complains in a hysterical fashion, “Fried mushrooms, boiled mushrooms, mushroom soup. If we go on like this, Harry Junior will be a mushroom. We have to think of something.” Instead of going back to get food, Monika, who naturally craves special food due to being pregnant, comes up with the less than sound idea to steal culinary items and even gets caught by a bourgeois family upon attempting to steal a roast from their cellar. While the family prepares to call the police, Monika, who has about as much class and self-restraint as a crack-addled ghetto negress, mocks their daughter and then manages to escape with the roast in her hand when the stressed out bourgeois family man goes to get a beer. Rather notably, Monika stops in the middle of escaping from the bourgeois family to chomp down on the roast while crouching down like a wild animal in a forest scene that really underscores her bestially hedonistic character and incapacity to defer self-gratification. When Monika finally catches up with Harry, she berates him for not helping her with the theft, continues to eat the roast like a starving beast (without offering her beloved a single bite), screams like a wild hog being butchered, and then starts crying hysterically like a violent harpy when he recommends that they go back home. Luckily, due to running out of kerosene and other supplies, Harry eventually gets his wish and the two are forced to go back home. 

 While sailing back home, the film develops a rather grim and ominous tone that signals the beginning of the end of the young couple’s magical storybook romance. Undoubtedly, Monika is the sort of insipidly shallow sort of chick that would love the retarded Marilyn Monroe quote, “if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best,” yet Harry somehow manages to tolerate her at her worst and she still senselessly decides to betray him in the most stonehearted of fashions. Indeed, while the two get married and Monika gives birth to a daughter that they name ‘June Monika,’ these things only depress the superlatively self-centered heroine, who lives for fun and excitement and not much more as a disastrously shallow dame that lives vicariously through phony movie heroines. As for Harry, he has fully committed himself to providing for his family by working hard labor while putting himself through school so he can eventually become an engineer and provide greater comforts to his family. While Monika does not even work, Harry finds himself constantly attending to the baby at night when she cries.  Indeed, Monika sees the baby as a great pestilence and clearly has no maternal love for the child. When Harry is forced to leave town for work, he even has to get his aunt to babysit baby June because Monika is simply too lazy to. Before leaving, Harry gives Monika money to pay for the overdue rent, but she ultimately decides to use the hard-earned cash to buy herself a new coat and movie tickets. In fact, as soon as Harry leaves town, Monika begins cheating on him with guys at a local bar, including her lowlife ex-boyfriend Lelle. Naturally, Monika is nowhere to be found when Harry gets back from his trip and it does not take the protagonist long to realize that his beloved is an unfaithful whore. 

 After discovering that Monika has been cheating on him with various different guys and blown all their money on frivolous junk, Harry wisely wants to get a divorce so that he can spare what is left of his personal dignity. Of course, like any slutty self-centered bitch that seems to suffer from narcissistic personality disorder, Monika blames Harry for her cheating and the failure of their marriage, even complaining, “You don’t care about me, just your studies.” While Harry soundly states, “I’m studying so we can be better off,” Monika is a small-minded twat that simply cannot bear to defer gratification or plan for the future, let alone concern herself with the future well-being of her child. Not surprisingly, Monika also blames Harry for getting her pregnant and bitches that “I’m all ugly now.” Indeed, as if Harry has no already suffered enough emotional abuse, Monika keeps repeating the same nonsensical self-centered bullshit and stating some version of, “You don’t care about me, just you and your studying. I want to have fun while I’m still young.” When Harry actually gets the balls to yell at her for cheating on him with her ex-boyfriend Lelle, she gets an evil smirk on her face and proudly boasts, “I was in love,” thus leading to the protagonist to smacking her around while she cries and predictably plays the poor victim. Notably, while all of this is going on, Monika symbolically carries around an old baby doll, thus underscoring the fact that she has the emotional maturity and intellectual prowess of a little girl and thus should not have gotten married or had a baby in the first place. In the end, the couple predictably breaks up for good and the two go their separate ways, though Harry still has the joy of his baby daughter and his memories of his sole happy summer with Monika. Rather fittingly, in the very last shot of the film, old drunks can be seen stumbling around in a background in a scene that hints that these poor old forsaken farts degenerated to such a sorry state are after suffering the abuses of other female mental midgets like Monika just like Harry did. 

 While it is quite dubious as to whether or not one could force the average football-loving and cheap-beer-chugging American male to watch an old European arthouse film with subtitles, I think Summer with Monika should be mandatory viewing for every single teenage boy and young man that has yet to have a serious relationship with a girl. Indeed, the film surely demonstrates that great Aryan pessimist Arthur Schopenhauer was certainly on to something when he declared that women “are big children all their life long” and, not unlike children, they will tolerate anything, no matter how morally dubious, so long as they are not bored as boredom is the ultimate sin as far as most women are concerned. After all, it is ultimately boredom that causes the titular twat of Bergman’s film to ruthlessly cheat on her faithful hardworking hubby and abandon her baby daughter. Undoubtedly, the same heroine would have probably stayed with her hubby if he degenerated into a STD-ridden bisexual junky hobo where she able to keep up a steady coke and cock intake as she would at least not suffer from the dreaded metaphysical affliction of boredom. Of course, with the adoption of so-called ‘no-fault divorce’ in the United States that enables a woman to divorce her husband for the most dubious of reasons while also allowing her to rob said husband of his wealth (especially if they have kids), an entire generation of screwed up adults that are incapable of maintaining normal romantic relationships have been brought as a result of their mothers breaking up families over sheer boredom (indeed, the far majority of divorces are filed by women, as the law is almost always on their side).  Undoubtedly, the titular cunt of Summer with Monika would have surely wanted to keep her baby if the film was set in contemporary Sweden, as she could use the child as a virtual hostage like so many modern Western women day so that she would have a perennial piggy bank via court-ordered child support.  Indeed, the sick irony of Bergman's film for contemporary viewers is that male protagonist Harry comes out of the situation fairly unscathed as he, quite unlike a modern Swedish male, no longer has to deal with his ex-wife or subsidize her hedonistic degeneracy.

 In what seemed like an insistence of cinematic kismet, I recently happened to watch Summer with Monika the same day as the vaguely similarly themed and absurdly underrated dark romance Rapture (1965) aka La fleur de l'âge directed by French-British maverick auteur John Guillermin. While a somewhat different love story involving a seemingly autistic teenage girl played by Patricia Gozzi and a young male fugitive played by Dean Stockwell, Rapture, which is also set on a scenic coast, is comparable to Bergman’s film in the sense that it is also good old fashioned visceral feminine irrationalism that leads to the tragic end of the love affair. Indeed, upon watching these two great films, one might come to the conclusion that early Christian writer Tertullian was on to something when he described women as “the devil’s gateway,” as a vagina more often than not seems to be the source of most men's downfalls. Female lead Harriet Andersson certainly proved to be a devil in disguise for Bergman, as she inspired him to throwaway both his wife and son without a second thought, or as he nostalgically recounts in regard to Summer with Monika in his autobiography The Magic Lantern: An Autobiography (1987), “I was at once overcome with euphoric light-heartedness. Professional, financial and marital problems fell away over the horizon. The film crew lived a relatively comfortable outdoor life, working days, evenings, dawns and in all weathers. The nights were short, sleep dreamless. After three weeks’ endeavour, we sent our results for developing but, owing to a defective machine, the laboratory managed to tear thousands of metres of film and nearly all of it had to be shot again. We cried a few crocodile tears, but were secretly delighted at our extended freedom.” Indeed, one of the world’s greatest filmmakers was thrilled to learn a good portion of his film had been destroyed and had to be reshot because it meant he would have more special time with his beloved.  If that is not true love, I don't know what is!  Of course, Bergman's various love affairs were imperative to his work, as he oftentimes modeled his characters after these women, thus it would be somewhat unfair to criticize him too much in regard to his serial philandering and child-abandoning.

 I have never seen broody and moody Bergman as ever having been a particularly erotic filmmaker, but apparently making Summer with Monika was like one long extended orgasm for the auteur, or as he stated in his autobiography, “Film work is a powerfully erotic business; the proximity of actors is without reservations, the mutual exposure is total. The intimacy, devotion, dependency, love, confidence and credibility in front of the camera’s magical eye become a warm, possibly illusory security. The strain, the easing of tension, the mutual drawing of breath, the moment of triumph, followed by anticlimax: the atmosphere is irresistibly charged with sexuality. It took me many years before I at last learnt that one day the camera would stop and the lights go out.” Somewhat ironically (or not so considering the two’s sexual romance fizzled out long before their professional relationship did), Bergman would go on to direct Andersson in various less than sexy and sometimes even somewhat grotesque roles, most notably Through a Glass Darkly (1961) where she portrays a schizophrenic and especially Cries and Whispers (1972) where she is literally on her deathbed while succumbing to cancer.  Of course, Andersson's drastic change of appearance between her iconic youthful performance in Summer with Monika and Cries and Whispers reveal that a woman's greatest assets, her beauty and fertility, do not last very long and the cunt titular character of the former film is ultimately in for a rude awakening when she no longer has anything desirable to offer men (in short, like many modern young women and their rejection of faithful beta-provider types, heroine Monika would later end up begging for someone like Harry).  As for Bergman flicks with likeable young female characters that most men would love to keep around, the director's early classic Sommarlek (1951) aka Summer Interlude features a tragic beauty played by largely unsung beauty Maj-Britt Nilsson that makes a nice antidote to Andersson's loathsome character.  In fact, Summer with Monika and Summer Interlude make for an immaculate double feature, as they are not only somewhat aesthetically and thematically similar as beauteous black-and-white flicks that depict tragic young love in a scenic seaside setting, but are also the first two truly important works of a cinematic genius.

-Ty E

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