HAMNSTAD begins with documentary shots of the harbour city of Gothenburg. Gösta Andersson (Bengt Eklund) returns home after eight years at sea. He notices in passing that a despairing girl has been pulled out of the water and saved from suicide. Later he meets her in a disco. Berit Holm (Nine-Christine Jönsson), it turns out, has led a difficult life. She comes from a broken family, got in with the wrong crowd, was sent repeatedly to reform school, and is now out working on probation. When she spends the night with Gösta, she is caught by her invidious mother, who immediately reports her to the youth welfare office. The welfare worker (Birgitta Valberg) – the embodiment of “refined society” – wants to sent her back to the reformatory, but Berit’s boss gives her a second chance.
Bergman’s empathetic portrait of the worries and humilities of the lower classes is clearly reminiscent of Italian Neorealism. In HAMNSTAD – his first collaboration with cameraman Gunnar Fischer – he further develops his filmic techniques, shows parallel scenes on different time levels, refines his dialogues and presents a liberal approach to the problems of the underprivileged.