Released in 1953, Monika
, an early Ingmar Bergman-directed melodrama, did much to establish the reputation of Swedish cinema, and perhaps Swedish women in general, as leading the vanguard in sexual liberation. The film attracted the wrath of the censors and one scene of lovemaking had to be cut. While subsequent generations will look at the film and wonder whatever the fuss was about, it retains a vivid and frolicsome sensuality, before submitting to the inevitable Bergman bleakness.
The film tells the story of a young couple, Harry (Lars Ekborg) and Monika (18-year-old Harriet Andersson, with whom Bergman would fall in love), stuck in lousy jobs in Stockholm. Harry is beset by parental responsibility--his mother died young and his father is ill--while Monika is fed up with her drunken, violent father. They escape in a motorboat to spend a blissful summer on an island in the archipelago. Once Monika gets pregnant and they're forced to steal food, however, the idyll concludes and they return to Stockholm, where the relationship disintegrates. Visually ravishing, Monika would have a deep impact on French New Wave cinema. --David Stubbs