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Summer With Monika and Summer Interlude Blu-ray Reviews

 

Ingmar Bergman’s “Summer With Monika” and “Summer Interlude” are interesting character studies.

Summer With Monika

While perhaps rather tame and predictable by today’s standards, “Summer With Monika” is an interesting tragic drama about youth, love, and harsh reality. The story follows the romance between teens Harry and Monika who work thankless jobs and have miserable home lives to boot. Wanting more out of life, the two decide to quit their jobs and run away on board Harry’s father’s boat. While the young lovers initially enjoy their freedom, reality soon kicks in when Monika winds up pregnant and the two struggle to survive on their own without much food or money. From there on out, the couple’s relationship soon implodes.

Ingmar Bergman (or the Master of Misery as I like to call him) always has a way of digging deep into human emotions with the characters in his films. Whether it be love or break-ups, he never shys away from being truthful however painful it may be. With “Summer Of Monika,” he unflinchingly chronicles the rise and fall of a relationship and also explores the reality of life.

At the start of the film, we see Harry and Monika so full of life and dreams. In the end, they wind up seeing their relationship hit rock bottom as they enter adulthood and realize that their life together wasn’t what they hoped it would be.

Is it tough to endure this tragic tale? You bet. But it also makes you think not only about your own life, but the hardships one has endured in a relationship(s). And really, any film that makes you think is a success in my book.

Video/Audio:

‘Monika’ is presented in 1.37:1 and the transfer is positively stunning. From the grassy field to the reflections in the water, the print is shockingly clear.

The Mono audio track, on the other hand, is a bit weathered. When it comes to hi-def discs, I’m used to a bit more quality in terms of the audio tracks. While this track isn’t poor by any means, I do feel it is below Blu-ray standards.

Extras:
* “Summer With Monika” trailer.
* “Ingmar Bergman Intro”- Bergman chats about ‘Monika’ and actress Harriet Andersson.
* “Monika Exploited!”- An interesting featurette about ‘Monika’ here that I wasn’t familiar with. Film historian Eric Schaefer talks about how “Summer With Monika” was turned into a U.S. exploitation film.
* “Peter Cowie Interviews Harriet Andersson”- Bergman historian Peter Cowie interviews Harriet Andersson (Monika) about her life, career, “Summer With Monika” etc.
* “Images From The Playground” is a 30 minute documentary that contains cast/crew interviews, behind-the-scenes home movie footage of Bergman films, an audio interview with Bergman. A Scorsese introduction is included.
* A booklet containing an essay by Laura Hubner, a review by Tom Milne, and a Q&A with Bergman.

Summer Interlude:

Even though the word ‘Summer’ is in the title, “Summer Interlude” has nothing to do continuity wise with “Summer With Monika” (although both films share similar themes). Instead, ‘Interlude’ revolves around a distraught ballet dancer named Marie. The film begins with Marie receiving a diary which causes her to have a sort of break down. Why? We don’t know until she travels to a remote location during a dance break. It is there that we (the audience) see a flashback to a romance she had with a lonely student named Henrik. The romance, however, was short lived as Henrik tragically died in an accident. The rest of the film deals with the emotional fallout of this situation and how Marie deals with the situation in the past and in the present.

Thematically, “Summer Interlude” is a very heady character study as it deals with love, the past, innocence, death, and attempting to moving on with one’s life. From a writing standpoint, however, ‘Interlude’ is far from Bergman’s best work.

One of the great strengths of ‘Monika’ was that the characters were fully developed. Sadly, that is not the case with ‘Interlude.’ For a film about a pivotal past romance, ‘Interlude’ never really makes us FEEL that romance. The relationship between Henrik and Marie feels unearned, awkward, and forced (even if it is meant to be young, naive love). It doesn’t really help that you don’t understand why Marie likes the whiney and almost emo Henrik. This underdeveloped relationship really makes it hard to move forward with the film despite several thought provoking themes that are presented throughout.

Video/Audio:

‘Interlude’ is presented in 1.37:1, but unfortunately, the print is nowhere near as impressive as that of ‘Monika.’ Lines, scratches, and wavey images are present throughout. Granted, this is the best the film has looked on home video, but it’s not a memorable transfer by any means.

The Uncompressed Mono audio track does the job. Personally, I felt it was stronger than the ‘Monika’ track.

Surprisingly, the only extra is a booklet containing an essay by Peter Cowie. Very unusual for Criterion.

June 9, 2012 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , ,

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