Friday, August 01, 2014


Despite the "beach party" title and the brief nudity that made this a sensation in the early career of Ingmar Bergman, this is mostly a drab and downbeat study of love and lust among the young. 19-year-old Harry (Lars Ekborg) lives with his ailing father and has an unfulfilling job at a glassworks shop. At a cafĂ©, he meets Monika (Harriet Andersson); they make a date to see a movie (called Song of Love) and later she announces that he may kiss her, even as she pauses to check herself out in her compact mirror. As they begin an affair, it's clear that what she knows of love she has learned from movies and songs. To escape their boring lives in Stockholm, they take Harry's father's small boat and head off to live on a lake for the summer. For a time, they live idyllically, but soon reality barges in: a jealous ex-boyfriend of Monika's shows up to make trouble, they run out of money and try to steal food, and eventually she discovers she's pregnant. In a reversal of the usual cultural narrative, it's Monika who rejects responsibility (and her relationship with Harry) and Harry who winds up taking the baby in. Considering this film's sexy reputation, this is in some ways an anti-erotic story. It manages to make romance—and sex—seem like a lot of work. Both lead actors are good—and Andersson in particular is quite attractive—and they carry the film through its ups and downs. There's about 10 seconds of female nudity, but generally an average television drama has more sexual content that this film has. Ultimately, this is a sad little movie that seems to say that we should hang onto the memories of our carefree summers while we can because they're ephemeral, and maybe bogus even while we're living them. [DVD]

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