TO JOY (Till glädje) (director/writer: Ingmar Bergman; cinematographer: Gunnar Fischer; editor: Oscar Rosander; music: Ludwig van Beethoven (from “Symphonie No. 9 ‘Choral’ op. 125”); cast: Maj-Britt Nilsson (Marta Olsson), Stig Olin (Stig Eriksson), Birger Malmsten (Marcel), John Ekman (Mikael Bro), Margit Carlqvist (Nelly Bro), Victor Sjöström (Sönderby); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Allan Ekelund; The Criterion Collection; 1950-Sweden-in Swedish with English subtitles)
“Overwrought melodrama that traces the pains in a rocky marriage.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Ingmar Bergman (“Wild Strawberries”/”Port of Call”/”Persona”) directs this overwrought melodrama that traces the pains in a rocky marriage. It was made just after Bergman’s second divorce and takes its title from Friedrich Schiller’s “Ode to Joy,” the final chorale movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. This lesser known minor work from Bergman’s early period is a baneful psychological character study about an orchestra violinist whose fears of mediocrity come true. The great Swedish filmmaker Victor Sjöström, before his stunning performance in Wild Strawberries, first appeared in a Bergman film as the tough-loving old crusty conductor of the Helsingborg symphony orchestra.
The film follows the fortunes of second-rate country orchestral players Marta (Maj-Britt Nilsson), the only woman in the orchestra, and the neurotic, insecure and childish Stig Eriksson (Stig Olin). They marry and Stig’s dream of becoming a celebrated soloist goes up in smoke when given the chance by the conductor (Victor Sjöström) to perform a Mendelsohn violin solo–he fails. This failure translates to a bumpy marriage for the grumpy violinist, whose inner demons get the best of him. After the birth of his daughter, his sweet wife tries her best to keep him on an even keel. But as the years go by and he has a son, he becomes estranged from his family, beats Marta in a moment of futility and goes to live with a married woman (Margit Carlqvist). When he comes to his senses, the caring Marta takes him back and he seems to have accepted his lot in life. But in the opening scene we learned his wife died in an accident, and now that we have seen their stormy marriage begin to work we wonder how he’ll get by without her help. In the last scene, Stig’s young son hopefully listens to the symphony rehearsal of “Ode to Joy” in an empty auditorium and, maybe, through his facial expressions we can read the director’s own thoughts to seek forgiveness for his contemptuous behavior, his fears of failure and wallowing in self-pity. It ends on a note of optimism, that lessons can be learned.
The melodramatics were a bit hokey, but the film redeems itself through the strong music of Mendelssohn, Mozart, and Beethoven. The music elegantly says what the characters can’t articulate about their emotional disconnect.
REVIEWED ON 8/23/2007 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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