45 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Dynamic, Memorable Film
, February 27, 2001
This review is from: Autumn Sonata (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
Writer/director Ingmar Bergman examines the strained relationship between a mother and daughter in "Autumn Sonata," starring Ingrid Bergman and Liv Ullmann. Eva (Ullmann) has not seen her mother, Charlotte (Bergman) in seven years; a successful concert pianist, Charlotte has spent a good portion of her life on the road, but after losing her long-time companion, Leonardo, Eva invites her to come to the parsonage where she and her minister husband, Viktor (Halvar Bjork), live, for an extended visit. Charlotte accepts, but soon after her arrival, old wounds and feelings begin to surface, and the film becomes an intimate character study of the life-long dysfunctional relationship between Charlotte and Eva, during which director Bergman intricately examines the causes and effects of all that has passed between them during their lives. It's an in-depth look at the emotional damage human beings are capable of inflicting upon one another, and how fragile the line between love and hate becomes when subjected to incessant neglect by even one of the parties involved. As the story unfolds and the principals bare their souls-- at last revealing a lifetime's worth of repressed feelings-- it becomes an emotionally devastating experience for the audience, as well, for there is much contained within the dynamics of this situation that most viewers will be able to identify with and relate to within their own lives. Ingmar Bergman is a Master of presenting life as it truly is; reality-- and portraying it on the screen-- is his domain, and throughout his career he has veritably created almost a genre of his own in doing so. With a microscope of his own design, he scrutinizes the basic instincts of the human condition, what makes people tick and how and why they relate to one another as they do. Much of what he presents is startling, and always emotionally involving, because he penetrates so deeply and succinctly into the heart of the matter, as he demonstrates so superlatively with this film. His methods and style are unique, his talent unequivocal; many others have attempted to capture the essence of that which Bergman has perfected, but few have succeeded. Interestingly enough, Liv Ullmann is one who, as a director, has probably come the closest to achieving that classic "sense" of Bergman, with her films "Private Confessions," and "Faithless," both of which were written by Bergman. In her role as Eva, Ullmann gives one of the best performances of her career, for which she should have at least been nominated for an Oscar; that she was not is nothing less than a gross injustice. She so skillfully conveys the depth and complexities of her character, and the differing emotional levels to which Eva is subjected, that it creates a lasting impression and makes her someone with whom it is easy for the audience to sympathize. It makes you realize, upon reflection, what a truly gifted actress Ullmann is. And, as good as Ullmann's performance here is, it is equaled-- though not, I would say-- surpassed, by Ingrid Bergman's portrayal (in her final theatrical appearance) of Charlotte; and in a renewal of faith that there is some justice in the world after all, she received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for it. In retrospect, it seems somehow inevitable that the two Bergmans came together at last, though it's somewhat lamentable that their career paths did not cross sooner. There is some consolation, however, in the fact that when they did finally join forces the result was such a powerful, memorable film. The supporting cast includes Lena Nyman (Helena), Gunnar Bjornstrand (Paul), Erland Josephson (Josef) and Linn Ullmann (Eva as a child). An intelligent, thought provoking and emotionally wrenching film, highlighted by outstanding performances and beautifully photographed by Sven Nykvist, "Autumn Sonata" is an example of filmmaking at it's best; it's a lasting tribute, not only to the immense talents of Ingmar Bergman and Liv Ullmann, but to Ingrid Bergman, one of the most beautiful and gifted actresses ever to grace the silver screen.
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