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.
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.
Marianne, some thirty years after divorcing Johan, decides to visit her ex-husband at his summer home. She arrives in the middle of a family drama between Johan's son from another marriage and his granddaughter.
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
Ingmar Bergman later stated that when they first started shooting, Ingrid Bergman played her part horribly. But after they discussed it, she was "Brilliant, incredibly difficult, but brilliant". 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'm seized by fear and see a horrible picture of myself. I have never grown up. My face and my body have aged. I acquire memories and experiences but inside all that I haven't even been born. I can't remember any faces not even my own.
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What makes a movie perfect is not only the intensity of emotion you feel when seeing it, and it's not only the seamless matching of technique and artistry, it is the truth of feeling conveyed and the unrelenting attention to the details of the crafts of writing, acting, and directing, making certain that those details work together to create meaning - a view of life, and whatever forces are behind life, that are as varied, contradictory, and complete as a living being. It is this that Bergman managed to accomplish with AUTUMN SONATA. The hyperbolic use of the word 'perfect', too often spontaneously tossed out as a result of confused and mawkish sentimentality (just as one Liv Ulmann's interpretation of a Chopin prelude is described as mawkish in the film) has a right to be used in the case of this work. There are no demons or angels in this movie. There are a collection of remarkably real characters whose actions and their motivations are fully explained by themselves, in dialog that is explicit and direct but not delivered as an artificial way of getting across the creator's judgment on his characters. Ingrid Bergman, in what is doubtlessly the finest performance of her career, portrays a mother who has neglected her children all her life and is confronted by this fact by her grown daughter whose adoration as a child has turned into an apparently irreversible hatred. "There is no forgiveness" is a line uttered by Liv Ulmann after summarizing the crimes of her mother's neglect and the results of that neglect. And yet, the character's contradictory feelings are clearly seen in the moments when her need for vengeful expression of her pain has faded away. The daughter who has condemned her mother, quite honestly, wants to keep trying to resolve the conflict, to heal the gaping wounds in her heart and in her sister's heart - a sister who, arguably, has been physically crippled by the cold withdrawl of her mother's feelings and her mother's competitive need to be the leading female character in everyone's life. Ingrid Bergman's character, though seen as a villain in the emotional eyes of her daughter, comes across as complex as Ulmann's. She has an awareness of her crimes of neglect but remains helpless, by choice and by need, to confront them within herself and make amends to resolve them. Her own childhood is the reason. The isolation that she felt, instead of inspiring her to not repeat the mistake with her own children, took the course of isolation, of seeking praise from the outside, of being the central character in the lives of people around her. Her insatiable hunger for love from others, though, remains forever unsatisfied. Her selfishness, even though she is painfully aware of it, is something which she has learned how to hide from herself. Her methods, of physical distance or the perfection of her work as a pianist has, for all her adult life, successfully obfuscated her pain - until an all-night exposing of the naked truths of hurt and distrust that are thrust upon her by her daughter.
Anyone with a mother or father can find identification with the characters in AUTUMN SONATA, as long as they can tolerate the pain of the truth that lies at the center of their all-too-human needs and the hurtful action that those needs have caused.
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