AUTUMN SONATA (Höstsonaten)
(director/writer: Ingmar Bergman; cinematographer: Sven Nykvist; editor: Sylvia Ingmarsdotter; cast: Ingrid Bergman (Charlotte Andergast), Liv Ullmann (Eva), Lena Nyman (Helena, Charlotte’s abandoned spastic daughter), Halvar Bjork (Viktor), Gunnar Björnstrand (Paul), Erland Josephson (Josef), Arne Bang-Hansen (Uncle Otto), Marianne Aminoff (Charlotte’s private secretary), Georg Lokkeberg (Leonardo), Knut Wigert (Professor); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Richard Brick; Criterion Collection; 1978-W.Germany-in English)
“This very good Ingrid and Ingmar Bergman film is very easy to love for its honesty and passion and wholesome belief in the importance of making a connection with one’s family.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This was famous Hollywood actress and Swedish expatriate Ingrid Bergman’s first Swedish film in 40 years and was her last feature film before her death from cancer. It was the first time she worked with the great Swedish director Ingmar Bergman (“Persona”/”Scenes from a Marriage”/”Cries and Whispers”). It’s a highly emotionally charged psychological drama about the troubled relationship between a mother and daughter. In other words, it’s a typical Bergman personal drama about having the Nordic blues. The intense chamber music film is most like a Strindberg play.
After not seeing each other for seven years, Eva (Liv Ullmann), the reserved wife of a parson named Viktor (Halvar Bjork), invites her world famous concert pianist mother Charlotte Andergast (Ingrid Bergman) to visit during autumn in her beautiful country parsonage home in Norway. Mom’s Italian lover Leonardo, of the last 18 years, has just died. The girls are momentarily cheered to be united again and in understated conversations, with plenty of close-ups and flashbacks, soon express their concerns, regrets and suffering. Mom has to confront her guilt-trip of abandoning her daughter to pursue her career and her present loneliness, while the daughter faces up to her inadequacies and her needs that were never fulfilled in childhood leaving her emotionally scarred. There’s hope that this visit will result in many more such visits, as the girls aired out many things they never had a chance to talk about so intimately before and leave with a tentative feeling of forgiveness for past omissions (such deep hurts do not heal from just one visit).
Ingrid displays flashes of greatness as she’s able to bring to her character a range that stretches from naivety to worldly sophistication and from gaiety to tears. Too bad this was the only film the Bergmans (not related) made together. Liv matches Ingrid’s great performance with a very moving one of her own, especially in the hysterical scene where she points her finger at mom’s abandonment of her in her time of greatest need. Even while playing a Chopin prelude, Liv brings many facial expressions of how she’s nervous and trying to impress her distant mother. This very good Ingrid and Ingmar Bergman film is very easy to love for its honesty and passion and wholesome belief in the importance of making a connection with one’s family.
REVIEWED ON 9/20/2007 GRADE: A-