Hmmm... I really didn't like this movie. This is surprising considering a number of things:
1. I'm a sucker for Bergman.
2. I rather enjoyed Summer Interlude, which Criterion is releasing as part of a one/two punch with this film.
3. Summer with Monika is not only considered better than that movie, but is widely heralded as an early triumph for Bergman, who gained international fame with its success.
4. The cover has boobies on it.
And yet, I had a couple of problems with the film. (These problems were unrelated to the boobies - though, again, how sad were people's lives that they had to go to an Ingmar Bergman melodrama to see a little (emphasis on little) sex?) First of all, Monika was a ridiculous character who felt extremely simplistic and veered slightly into sexism. Coquettish and demure to reel in the man, bitter and hateful to ruin his life, Monika comes down on our solemn stand-in with a vicious fist that seems almost premeditated. The clear lesson of the movie: don't be nice and sacrifice everything for your hot girlfriend, because once you marry her and have a baby, she's just going to bitch and moan about how you can't buy her nice things.
(I would like to qualify these complaints, however, by giving credit to Bergman for at least depicting with tragic detail how fucked Monika was with regards to the way men treated her throughout her life. The girl is practically raped at her job, beaten by her father, and basically told she won't amount to much. These conscious inclusions do at least paint a stronger picture of her justifications - or at least motivations - for what she does later in the film. That said, I don't necessarily know that these elements were meant to explain her irrational "womanly" behavior, as they could just as easily have been included to show just how shitty the lives of the two protagonists are before their dalliance in the summer of the title.)
My second huge problem with the movie was the simplicity of the plot. The story is both depressingly predictable and structurally boring. We all know things aren't going to end well, but I don't like being hit over the head with it, either, and the cliche nature of Bergman's plotting cuts into the emotional impact of his more abstract choices, such as the opening quiet shots of the harbor or Gunnar Fischer beautiful cinematography. Unlike Summer Interlude, which was similarly nostalgic and rather basically structured, the narrative is chronological and the emotional arc preordained. Just look at the cover and think about the fact that this is a Bergman movie; you've probably figured out the whole movie.
This is all kind of surprising for me and rather disappointing, but I can't expect to like every Bergman movie - especially pre-Seventh Seal before he kicked into high gear. Jean-Luc Godard loved Summer with Monika, weirdly comparing its influence and importance in cinema to Birth of a Nation, but Godard was/is crazy, so you should probably just watch the movie and make up your own mind.