Autumn Sonata Review
By Mark Athitakis
At its core Autumn Sonata is little more than a movie about an argument. Charlotte (Ingrid Bergman, in her second-to-last role), a world-famous concert pianist, has arrived at the home of her daughter Eva (Liv Ullmann), who lives a modest life with her parish priest husband, Viktor (Halvar Bjork), and takes care of her terminally ill sister Helena (Lena Nyman). Despite everyone's efforts to be mannered and accepting - this is an Ingmar Bergman film, after all - Charlotte's arrival cracks Eva's long-standing resentments wide open.
Though Ingrid and Ingmar Bergman aren't related, their pairing on a movie set was a long-anticipated event -- each of their careers were marked by a certain Scandinavian iciness -- and it turned out to be a wholly successful one. Ingrid has a stubborn, indomitable attitude in the opening of the film that turns out to be only selfish shallowness - she resents being in the presence of Helena, and seems anxious to get away from Eva, who she always felt fell short of expectations. As each reveal the losses they've suffered and the slights they've felt, it slowly becomes clear that resentment has built up between them for years. But the brutality of Eva and Charlotte's final fight doesn't come from the noise they make - it's in the way their words cut. "You should be hidden away and kept from doing others harm," Eva tells her mother towards the end, and it seems to annihilate her.
There are very few outdoor shots, but though the film mostly takes place within the confines of the home, it doesn't feel claustrophobic. Ingmar suffuses the rooms of the house with bright red and orange light, which feels more cool than fiery. The idea seemed to be to relax the mood with something that felt like a sunset - something autumnal -- instead of underscoring the anger in the living room. Ingrid Bergman and Liv Ullmann handled that just fine by themselves.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Sunday 1st October 1978
Distributed by: Criterion Collection
Production compaines: Suede Film, Personafilm, Filmédis, Incorporated Television Company (ITC)
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Fresh: 20 Rotten: 1
Cast & Crew