Autumn Sonata (1978)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Drama, Reunion Films, Family Drama  |   Run Time - 97 min.  |   Countries - Germany, France, Sweden  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Andrea LeVasseur

The first and only time Ingmar Bergman and Ingrid Bergman worked together for the screen, Autumn Sonata is an intense yet frequently overlooked family drama. It is excessively talky, and rightly so, with the two main protagonists holed up in a country estate after a seven-year separation to duke out their problems in a passionate dialogue. The tense mother-daughter relationship is deeply investigated, with Ingrid as Charlotte, the successful career mother, and Liv Ullman as Eva, the neglected and put-upon daughter. With a sickly sister struggling to survive in the next room, these actors stir up some heated emotions and stormy conversation. The scene where each woman performs Chopin on the piano is a moving portrait of the power exchanges at work in their relationship. Both actresses get a chance to expand on their usual film personas. As Eva, Ullman is typically timid before exploding with confrontational energy. Ingrid Bergman shows a darker emotional side as Charlotte, her classic beauty-queen face covered in tears and photographed in intimate close-ups. Diagnosed with terminal cancer right before shooting, she tinges the already brutally personal events with a mournful subtext. The look of the film is almost as stunning as the performances. Though it dates the film to the '70s, the earthtone colors of oranges, reds, and yellows are used throughout as an excellent thematic accompaniment to the melancholy mood of regret, pain, and catharsis. Made toward the end of Ingmar Bergman's career during his "chamber film" phase, Autumn Sonata marked the last theatrical appearance of Ingrid Bergman.