|Harriet Andersson stares frankly at the camera in Bergman's Summer with Monika (1953) This film pre-figured French New Wave and anticipated many of the techniques used by those film makers.|
Summer with Monika (1953)
d. Ingmar Bergman
Criterion Collection #614
Bergman didn't really have an international hit before The Seventh Seal in 1957. Distribution for the films prior to that The Seventh Seal was uneven. For example, in the New York Times article that I'm not linking to because of the NYT pay wall, the writer notes that in 1953, Summer with Monika was purchased for an American run by a distributor who emphasized the film in terms of its sexual explicitness. It was shown in the pre-art house grindhouse circuit, and largely ignored by the American critical Audience.
However the reception in France was different, and Summer with Monika would later be cited by the Auteurs of the French New Wave as a primary influence in terms of the kind of filmed intimacy they sought in their early films. The same New York Times article points out that Summer with Monika is a more well developed version of his 1951 film, Summer Interlude. I would second that observation, especially since I watched Summer Interlude two months ago and still have it in mind.
It is hard not to fall in love with a young Harriet Andersson playing Monika. Summer with Monika about a young, working class couple who fall into and out of love within the hour and a half run time of the film. The calm, steady camera work emphasizes Andersson's natural beauty at the same time her character displays personality traits that are anything but beautiful. The contrast is a quintessentially Bergman-esque theme.
The last third of Summer with Monika is the familiar "hell is other (married) people" thesis that Bergman explores so successfully in his more mature work.