In the midst of a civil war, former violinists Jan and Eva Rosenberg, who have a tempestuous marriage, run a farm on a rural island. In spite of their best efforts to escape their homeland, the war impinges on every aspect of their lives.
Two estranged sisters, Ester and Anna, and Anna's 10-year-old son travel to the Central European country on the verge of war. Ester becomes seriously ill and the three of them move into a hotel in a small town called Timoka.
After having neglected her children for many years, world famous pianist Charlotte visits her daughter Eva in her home. To her surprise she finds her other daughter, Helena, there as well. Helena is mentally disabled, and Eva has taken Helena out of the institution where their mother had placed her. The tension between Charlotte and Eva only builds up slowly, until a nightly conversation releases all the things they have wanted to tell each other.Written by
This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #60. See more »
In the dialogue scene where Charlotte is lying on the floor and Eva is sitting on the sofa behind her, the shadow of the boom mic is visible on the curtains when the camera pans to Eva for a few seconds. See more »
I will never let you vanish out of my life again. I'm going to persist. I won't give up, even if it is too late. I don't think it is too late. It must not be too late.
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"A mother and a daughter... can you imagine a more terrible combination?"
Ingrid Bergman as Charlotte, is a concert pianist visiting her daughter Eva, played by Liv Ullmann. They have not seen each other for 7 years. Charlotte's other daughter, Helena, is also living with Eva. Helena has a crippling disease, and at one time was living in some type of institution.
At first, everything is fine, as mother and daughter do their best to make each other as comfortable as possible. When left alone, they wonder about each other's expectations, but continue on.
Charlotte is a very talented, but completely self-absorbed woman. Eva is a frump. A sweet frump, but a frump nonetheless. At first, there are a few catty remarks exchanged, but the turning point is when Eva offers to play the piano for her mother. She works as hard as she can, but the music sounds contrived and unmusical. When she asks her mother to play the piece for her, Charlotte does the one thing that signaled to me that "the war was on". She laid down the music rack on the piano. (When pianists have a piece memorized, they do that to show the audience that they have no need for the printed music.) Charlotte, of course, plays beautifully (she could play no other way). However, the damage is done. Mother is successful, and daughter is a failure. Although the scene is dramatically pivotal, it did produce one of the few really funny lines in the movie. After Charlotte finishes playing, she says, "Well, I HAVE been playing these Chopin pieces for 37 years."
Charlotte's self-absorption is pretty amazing when you realize that her ill daughter was in an institution, then moved to Eva's house, and she had no idea that it happened. There are some other clues in the early part of the story that indicate she probably wished that her daughter Helena would have died long ago. Charlotte can be totally charming to her public, her agents, her fans... but has very little to offer her own children.
Eva is so desperate for love and affection from her mother that she seemingly misses the fact that her husband loves her very much. When Charlotte is awakened by a nightmare, she and Eva begin a late-night talk. And that is when the real nightmare begins.
At times this film is painful to watch, and at times is emotionally draining. Sven Nykvyst's cinematography is stunning. I thought this especially so in the flashback sequences, and in the scene close to the end of the film when Eva is in the cemetery.
Although not as perfect as The Seventh Seal, or Wild Strawberries, Autumn Sonata still has much to say, whether we feel comfortable listening to it or not.
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