Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Autumn Sonata (1978)

Ingmar Bergman is one of the greatest directors of all time, however Autumn Sonata was not one of his best. That's not to say it is a bad film, quite the contrary, its just saying that it is not quite at the level as some of his other films. The film revolves around Eva, played by Liv Ullmann. Eva lives at her home with her husband Viktor (Halvar Björk) and her invalid sister Helena (Lena Nyman) whom she cares for. Eva has not seen her mother for seven years and after hearing about the death of a close friend of her mother’s Eva sends a letter to her mother inviting her to come visit. Her mother, Charlotte (Ingrid Bergman), is a world famous classical pianist who spent most of Eva's childhood on tour. At first Eva is ecstatic that her mother has come, but as Ingmar makes apparent, Charlotte is a very selfish woman with seemingly no true feelings for anyone, so this happiness is not to last. It starts with a few minor issues; comments on Eva's interpretation of Chopin, the obligatory visit to Helena, and the attire worn to dinner. Despite these petty issues, everything seems to be going fine; just the minor arguments common within families. During the night Charlotte has a nightmare from which she awakens with a yelp. She heads downstairs to calm her nerves, but her yelp has also awakened Eva who comes down to see if everything is all right. Unfortunately, with this late hour the two of them end up having a long discussion about Eva's childhood where Eva lets out years of pent up rage and hatred towards her mother. Eva even comes out and blames her mother for Helena’s illness. Autumn Sonata is not quite as depressing as most Bergman films, but it’s certainly not cheerful. Liv Ullmann and Ingrid Bergman put out stellar performances, and Ingmar's direction is superb. Björk is also quite good as Viktor, and Lena Nyman does a great job in the role of Helena. Worth seeing if you are a Bergman fan (Ingmar or Ingrid), but I don't think the average American would enjoy this film. Overall 3.0/4 Stars Grade = B

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