Friday, December 21, 2007


It may be becoming a little boring for regular readers, but I make no apology in talking about another pantheon movie by Ingmar Bergman. I recently watched AUTUMN SONATA again and was struck once again by its austerity and perfection. I say austerity because it has a small cast, a narrow field of interest, a rather claustrophobic single set and a shooting style that does not draw attention to itself. The whole of the viewer's focus is therefore angled in to the central emotional drama. In her final film role, and her only role under this director, Ingrid Bergman plays an incredibly successful concert pianist called Charlotte. She has lived a life in the lime-light, her every need catered for, flying across the globe. But when her current husband dies she retreats to her daughter Eva's simple country parsonage. Where Berman is all elderly elegance and wreaks of money, Liv Ullmann looks homely, even plain, as her frumpy middle-aged daughter Eva. A Strindberg-like play unfolds with the two women slowly unburdening themselves of all their dissatisfactions with each other. Eva resents the fact that her mother neglected her domestic duties - most poignantly rendered in a mentally disabled sister called Helena. Charlotte despises, or maybe feels threatened, by her disabled child and had her committed to a home, from which Eva has rescued her. Helena is almost a badge of moral superiority for Eva.

So begins a traumatic, transfixing chamber drama focused on two fine actresses allowed to let rip with a raw, brave script. Amazingly, Bergman was nominated for, but did not win, an Oscar for her performance, losing out to Jane Fonda for COMING HOME. The screenwriter of COMING HOME, Nancy Dowd, also beat Ingmar Bergman for an Oscar! Well, I suppose we have come to expect such travesties. (This was also the year of Woody Allen's superb Bergman-homage INTERIORS, and that too lost out to COMING HOME.)

AUTUMN SONATA was released in 1978 and is widely available on DVD.

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