(a “just one image with just not one word spoken” film review by Timothy J. Verret)
It pains me to say that Ingmar Bergman’s SUMMER WITH MONIKA (SOMMAREN MED MONIKA) is a film I did not all that much care for. It is an earlier film of Bergman’s, but I don’t think this is why. I think it might have a lot to do with the screenplay NOT being written by Bergman. Many of Bergman’s films I love, and there are many, have been BOTH directed AND written by Bergman. I think this “BOTH” is what makes Bergman’s films “speak” to me. And speaking of “speak,” I was not even prepared to write a film review of this lackluster film for me until “just one image with just not one word spoken” stayed with me and I could not let it go. I desire to write this film review solely from “just one image with just not one word spoken” and what this image spoke, literally and figuratively, to me.
This is the “just one image with just not one word spoken:”
I do have to give a bit of a background to understand this “just one image with just not one word spoken.” The very young Harry (Larks Ekborg) and the very young Monika (Harriet Andersson, brilliant in this film as she is in all Bergman’s films) have a summer fling, hence the title of the film. It is fueled with much passion and innocence, but it also ends the summer with Monika pregnant and having a baby girl. It just goes from bad to worse after this. When Harry goes on a trip for his studies and Harry’s Auntie takes the baby girl from a stressed-out Monika, Monika is free. Or is she? Her body language speaks a freedom as she dances seductively in their apartment, singing to herself, as I remember it, “la la la la” (even in Swedish, it is still “la la la la”😉). But then we get this “just one image with just not one word spoken” as above. Before this image, a man NOT Harry is lighting Monika’s cigarette and they seem to be in a bar. When the cigarette is lit, Monika leans back in her chair and then turns her head and just stares at us with “just not one word spoken.” What in the world was Bergman thinking with this “just one image with just not one word spoken?” I know that Bergman knows theatre, so he knows all about “breaking the fourth wall.” That is when the actor or actress onstage looks toward the audience in the theatre. All actors and actresses fear being distracted in a play and this very thing happening. So, Bergman knowing theatre and Bergman NOT being an actor, I guess he thought to himself, “What do I care if I get a character in my film to ‘break the fourth wall?” He answered his own question with Monika.
And what does Monika want me to know in this “just one image with just not one word spoken?” This is what she said to me:
“Oh, you thought you knew me? Think again. You thought I would fall apart when Harry left me and Auntie took my baby girl? Think again. Do you really think I can be tied down by BOTH Harry AND my baby girl? Think again. You thought I would travel with Harry or ask Auntie to bring back my baby girl because I missed them BOTH so much? Think again. You don’t know me at all! You don’t know anyone in your life right now at all! You thought you knew what I would do and feel when I was left alone, right? Think again. You think you know what others will do and feel when you are left alone, right? Think again. You don’t know me and you don’t know them. You might not even know YOU! You think you know what you will do when this or that happens? Think again. You think you know what others will do when this or that happens? Think again. Don’t you dare try to control me! You thought you could? Think again. Don’t you dare try to control yourself or others! You think you can? Think again. You control NOTHING and NO ONE, and you certainly can’t control ME! I’m FREE! Get away from ME! I got my eye on YOU! YOU better look away! Because if YOU don’t, then….”
Who knows if any of these words were NOT in Bergman’s screenplay in this “just one image with just not one word spoken.” I just know what it spoke to ME! And, once again, as I’ve written in so many reviews of Bergman’s films, Bergman is sheer genius to not give too much away, to be subtle while at the same time brutal. He keeps words and images short so they can be more impactful. In his films, he often has his characters screaming at the top of their lungs (brutal) or he has his characters saying absolutely nothing at the top of their lungs (subtle), as in this “just one image with just not one word spoken.” We, the audience, each individual and unique audience member, can do all the screaming at the top of our lungs or the saying absolutely nothing at the top of our lungs. I must remember to take note of this as an artist, i.e., not to give too much away, to be subtle while at the same time brutal. I think I give too much away as an artist. I tend to be too brutal, even torturing my audience to get my point across. Maybe I need to be a whole lot gentler with my audience, if they were ever or ever will be “my” audience. I’ll let “my” audience decide “their” interpretation of my artistry, let them fill in “my” blanks with “their” blanks. That’s what Bergman allowed me to do in this film review.
Now, I can get back to watching Bergman’s films that he BOTH directed AND wrote unlike SUMMER WITH MONIKA (SOMMAREN MED MONIKA). But I can promise you when I do get back to this, I will NEVER forget this “just one image with just not one word spoken” and what it spoke to me, literally and figuratively.