Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata is the troubling drama between mother and daughter, exploring themes of abandonment, resentment, and even hatred brewing over the years.
Ingrid Bergman goes against type in her role as Charlotte, an uninvolved yet overbearing mother to Liv Ullmann’s subdued Eva. Ingrid as Charlotte is the most fascinating thing about this movie, playing a sometimes awful woman who cares little-to-nothing for her severely disabled daughter, who now lives with Eva. Though Eva is not without fault either, when in a moment of vulnerability and revelation is somehow oblivious to the cries of her sister for help.
As the film chugs on, struggle after struggle is revealed, and at times it gets into soapy territory. Despite the narrative, though, the performances feel sincere and it doesn’t approach the over-the-top sensibility American actresses would play this material to.
The filmmaking is interesting as well, particularly the sense of enclosure and framing; the vast majority of the film is indoors, with the action shot with view of molding framing the characters. Not only does this subvert the seemingly picture-perfect lives of two accomplished pianists, but also maintains the constricting feeling that pervades throughout these women’s lives. Without spoiling the ending, the film’s finale, while somewhat troubling, feels true to form and is consistent with the action that has taken place thus far.
I wasn’t in love with Autumn Sonata, though I did appreciate its visual continuity and well-crafted performances to weigh down the narrative material.