Friday, August 28, 2015

Autumn Sonata, Ingmar Bergman film

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Today was Ingrid Bergman day on TCM, and she made one film with Ingmar Bergman, Autumn Sonata, which was shown earlier this evening.  This is film at its best, one to watch over and over except not at close intervals because the emotion is so raw and real.

My husband asked me if that was common between mothers and daughters.  I said some, but not most.  I don’t think that is the point, that this is a microcosm of all mothers and daughters.  It’s about this one, a “selfish” woman (subjective) who put her career as a classical pianist on tour before being at home with her children, one of whom is disabled in some way (the disease is so vaguely portrayed that it comes across metaphorical rather than real).  The other adult daughter is suffering from grief (from death of child), depression, anxiety, and some deep abandonment from her mother that she interprets as hate.  I am not sure it really is hate, though.  She wants her mother’s love and maybe her mother to suffer to, as if another person’s suffering would make right, wash away, or redeem our own.

In the end, the daughter writes a letter to the mother asking forgiveness for unloading her “hatred” on her  (in what is the central scene of the movie) during a visit by her mother.  She says something profound that made me pause and think hard and feel even harder.

“The important thing in life is to take care of each other . . . . 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.”

I was reminded of a hero of mine, Henri  Nouwen, a theologian and scholar who left public and successful ministry to take care of the disabled in a community in Ontario. 

More than a totally realistic portrayal of a mother and daughter, I see the film as an exploration of how deeply we can be hurt, beyond rationality, by our parents but also how pain is not always an outside force that impinges upon us without our own complicity and our own enlargement of it.  The daughter did not, in her cruel diatribe against her mother, take any responsibility for her own unhappiness; she framed herself as a total victim, and doing so closes us off completely from recovering, control, forgiveness, and freedom. 

On of the posters on IMDB called it misogynistic dreck because the women actors were “forced” to say lines that portrayed female stereotypes of the depressed, meek daughter under her patriarchal father and husband pitted against the career woman b---- mother.  It’s an interesting take, except that the actresses could have said no to the script (rather than being forced, which makes a director sound like a rapist), and seeing them as archetypes rather than particulars is unnecessary.

And of course the acting is superb.  Ingrid Bergman always had such an expressive face, so sensitive and malleable to the emotion.  I don’t think any other female actor had such a face for emotion.

I hope to watch more Bergman’s, having only seen The Seventh Seal (a while back and not understanding it!), Wild Strawberries (brilliant) and this one.   

Addendum:  I also watched the Passion of Anna or just Passion. It was not as touching to me and I didn't connect with the characters.

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