Soon after her mother passes away, Inga (Marie Liljedahl) is sent to stay with her aunt, Greta (Monica Strömmerstedt). Greta is an attractive middle-aged woman who only seems to be focused on two things: money and her much younger boyfriend, Karl (Casten Lassen). Unfortunately, however, Greta is broke, and without money to feed his gold digging ways, Greta risks losing Karl, too. Worse yet, Karl begins to show some interest in the pretty and significantly younger Inga, something that incites a touch of jealousy in Greta. As a way to stay financially stable as well as keep Karl by her side, Greta selfishly uses Inga as collateral, setting her up with a wealthy older man named Einar (Thomas Ungewitter) in exchange for weekly payments. This arrangement is unknown to Einar, however, as his sister is the one who set up the deal with the hope of making her brother happy.
Written and directed by Joseph Sarno, 1968’s Inga is a Swedish sexploitation film that is, at its heart, about a young, beautiful girl growing into adulthood. More so, however, it’s about a girl who will come to find herself sexually.
Inga is first introduced as she gently removes a sheer chiffon peignoir to reveal a modest nightgown. She then proceeds to make her way towards a set of shelves that are placed directly in front of the audience’s perspective. Located on the shelving are a number of children's wind-up toys, which Inga curiously inspects with a wide-eyed, almost childlike curiosity. As the music box style score adds to the playfulness of the scene, Inga spends a moment with each toy, smiling whimsically at the joy these simple items bring to her at this very moment.
After this introduction, the film cuts to a kinetic opening credit sequence that consists of numerous sexually charged teenagers dancing to some groovy psychedelic music. These free-spirited teenagers come in stark contrast to what we had seen from Inga only minutes before. In fact, this opening almost serves as the impetus for the journey ahead of Inga; a young, innocent and attractive 17-year-old girl who will see a major change in her life materialize throughout the course of an 82 minute film. This change will come in the form of a sexual awakening, as her childlike innocence at the beginning of the film will slowly shed to reveal a woman who is ready to embrace her sexuality, much like the dancing teenagers seen during the opening credits.
Inga has been labeled as a softcore film – even receiving an X rating when originally released in the US (a re-release garnered an R) – but I place a big emphasis on the word soft. There is certainly a fair amount of nudity in Inga. There are even a number of highly sexualized situations. In fact, the entire tone of the film is driven by sex, which is essentially the point of a sexploitaiton film. With that said, this is 1968, and soft for 1968 is certainly tame by modern “soft” standards. You’ll definitely see a lot more “action” if you keep your channel tuned to Cinemax late at night.
Regardless of how tame it is compared to today’s standards, Inga is certainly an extremely erotic piece of cinema, and this is especially represented by a few key sequences. One of the more notable moments being a scene where Inga is standing in front of a mirror after a shower – examining her body in a way that would indicate she is beginning to acknowledge herself as a sexual being. Soon afterwards, Inga notices Karl peeping in her window from the street below. At this point, Inga does something quite out of character, as she begins to remove her clothing to reveal her nude body before putting on a lace nightgown – and she does so right in front of the window as Karl watches. This would be a turning point for Inga, as this event sets off a masturbatiry awakening of her sexual desires as Karl furiously revs the engine of his sports car before driving away in sexual frustration.
Something else worth noting is that Inga's curiosity for the playful toys in the film’s opening comes to be a clear echo of her curiosity for playful sexuality, and this theme carries on throughout the film in a number of fascinating ways. For example, early on there's a scene between Greta and Karl in which Greta picks up a wind-up toy drummer, turns its key a few times, and places it back down again. As the toy drummer begins rapidly playing his drum, Greta turns to Karl and the two begin passionately kissing. The furious drumming seemingly representing the rapid heartbeat of the two lovers as they are overtaken with sexual lust. Later on in the film, as Inga (who is accompanied by Einar) is about to go to sleep, she walks over to a wind-up toy marching band, picks it up and places it next to her bed before laying down. After Einar leaves her room so she can sleep – but not after the two share an innocent kiss – Inga winds up the toy marching band and captively watches as it walks off and towards the camera. It’s as if she is watching her innocence as a child walk away, leaving her adult self behind.
Despite being a sexploitation movie, Sarno shows a lot of respect for Inga and her sexuality. Never is Inga or her sexuality exploited in a mean or nasty fashion. In fact, as a film, Inga is more a celebration of womanhood as well as a celebration of a woman's growing sexual needs and desires. The liberating and artistic approach to Inga's erotic journey towards sexual adulthood is what makes Inga such an important sexploitation film, as Inga’s excursion is presented in a fascinating fashion that never compromises her innocence nor her independence.