Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ingrid Bergman, in Autumn Sonata
approximately 52 minutes and 51 seconds***
58.4% of the film

The film

After having neglected her children for many years, world famous pianist Charlotte visits her daughter Eva in her home.

You can read my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.

Even with the long dialogue scenes and the camera work focused mostly on the faces, Autumn Sonata still is one of the most accessible Ingmar Bergman films. The film’s two strong elements are the dialogue (deep and effective) and the acting: a very good performance from Liv and a career best from Ingrid.

Ingrid Bergman as Charlotte

Doesn’t it make you feel good? To see a famous actress, from another movie era taking a role towards the end of her career that suddenly puts her back on the map, for a creating a fabulous performance? You really DON’T see that many good roles for women over 60 (even less nowadays), not to mention leading ones. After an infamous Oscar win 4 years earlier, Ingrid finally got the attention she deserved. It was Casablanca that made her famous and a superstar, but I think it was Autumn Sonata that actually reconfirmed the respect critics and audiences had for this screen legend.

Ingrid plays Charlotte, a famous internationally acclaimed pianist, who comes to visit her eldest daughter Eva (great Liv Ullmann) after many years. In an unexpected turn, she is suddenly confronted with Eva’s repressed feelings towards her mother and the women finally have a real conversation that opens up a lot of trauma from the past. The characters are written to perfection, so all Ingrid has to do is act, and boy does she go there.

Charlotte is a cold, distant woman, but so good at hiding and pretending. Actually, there are more than two layers to this character and it all feels so believable. While Eva seems shy and frail, Charlotte is more of a diva. We can sense her superiority even from the start of the film. Even though I immediately realized she is a cold selfish person (she abandoned her other crippled daughter), Ingrid brings some kind of likeability to Charlotte.

Her monologues are long and difficult, even from the first half of the film and Ingrid understands them and reads them so perfectly (challenging with this complex dialogue), making them her own. I understand where she is going with Charlotte; without saying so, we instantly notice she is not someone who accepts the presence of the weak, not because she is overly cruel, but because she’s so emotionally crippled and self-conscious that she instantly gets disgusted and afraid: just like her attitude towards her sick daughter.

It’s the second part that brings the best acting, just at topics go a bit deeper. Ingrid manages in a fantastic way to slowly peel off Charlotte’s vanity layers, as she is being confronted with the emotional harm she had caused her daughter. Under the mask of a nice person and under the mask of the cold brilliant pianist we discover the empty Charlotte, incapable of loving, scared of losing her talent and fame, guilty for the damage she had caused.

With the help of the fabulous camera work, Ingrid expresses all we need to know about Charlotte, she feels comfortable with the dialogue and you can tell those 40 years of acting experience: when to look, when to react and her ability to create the impression, even if for a short time, of a heartbroken sympathetic Charlotte.

It means a lot to also have a great screenplay. Even if this is an emotional journey for Charlotte, the character is so well built, that in the end I was not sure if she’s changed at all. Both Ingrid and Ingmar go for a very believable take. I myself agree: it’s more believable that she hasn’t evolved and that the whole emotional episode might’ve been exactly that: an episode that came and went, as Charlotte is too incapable of feeling to be able to change. Ingrid easily gives one of the top 5-10 performances this category has even seen. So easy to rate: .

P.S.: There is a scene with Eva playing the piano and Charlotte watching her and listening. She is the genius, her daughter is the clumsy. But Charlotte suddenly gets teary. Do you think she got emotional and proud of Eva or did Chopin remember her of her youth? What do you think? Do you remember the moment?

*** reportedly, the hands playing in the piano scene belonged to Ingmar Bergman’s wife, so in a way it’s a body double; I didn’t count it as screentime if it wasn’t Ingrid’s body part in an obvious way. :)


Malcolm said...

Great write-up!

Do you think this is her pest performance ever?

joe burns said...

She'll be an easy choice. I haven't seen her yet, but everyone loves her. I'm hoping that Jill Clayburg will do well with you though!

Alex in Movieland said...

yes, I think it is.

strangely, while I was taking the photos/stills to post here, I was quickly going thru some scenes again and I couldn't help feeling that the character is even more complex that one might think at first. It can definitely be interpreted in many ways.

MRRIPLEY said...

i did my own 78 actress line up about a month ago and could not get how fonda won her 2nd she was solid but my god bergman is simply hands down one of THE best actress nominees ever.

my top 5 in order

ingrid bergman - autumn sonate
geraldine page - interiors
jill clayburgh - an unmarried woman
jane fonda - coming home
glenda jackson - stevie

MRRIPLEY said...

hi alex love this stuff i spent hours going through your years,are there any other sites doing this sort of thing besides stinkylulu who has ground to a halt and nicksflickpicks,oscarfan & filmexperience.


Alex in Movieland said...

hmmm, never seen Stevie, but I know many consider it 1981, so I'm not sure how it had its Oscar eligiblity year. Glenda Jackson always rocks, though.

I donno. you can look at the people who usually comment here, many have their own blogs & ranking systems.

MRRIPLEY said...

well if stevie is 1981 then 5th spot in liv ullman.

you know what would be good if you listed you're top 5 before doing the ranks or reviewing a non moninee you liked,could do supp actress 1984.

Fritz said...

Wow, you really, really, really, really loved her! I gave her 4,5. I loved her but I wasn't as blown away as apparently everybody else. And I think that Liv Ullman overshadowed her...but it's certainly a great performance and out of the nominees, she deserved the win. I am looking forward on your thougths on Jill Clayburgh who is a VERY close second for me.

MRRIPLEY said...

I feel stevie is in a '78 film mainly due to the globes nomming her and washborne in 78 but not 81 plus jakson was the brit queen of filoms in the 70 had more globe noms than any1 in the 70's and was tied with fonda and burstyn for most oscar noms

dinasztie said...

I share your enthusiasm, this is truly one of the performances ever, if not the ONE. About that scene: I think she was pretending to be proud of her, it was a bit fake. I even saw some kind of envy in her. I felt that she wanted to suggest that although Eva is not bad, the piano is Charlotte's territory and she's the star there. Also, towards the ending she says she wanted to love Eva, but couldn't. Those false tears are the proof: she WANTS to be proud of her.

In my opinion Eva was drunk and said too much about her causing her mother to collapse. This is a very complex performance of Bergman, I saw it countless times, and yet I haven't managed to discover everything or totally understand Charlotte. It's an emotional dynamite and a great farwell role for Bergman at her finest. With this she prooved even to her haters who talented she is.

Alex in Movieland said...


very nicely said. I agree

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