by Bergman, Ingmar

  • Autumn Sonata

Genre: Drama

Cast 5 male 5 female

Length Full

Set Interior

Licence World ex. Sweden


The first Bergman film to star Ingrid Bergman, playing Charlotte, a successful concert pianist. The film concerns Charlotte’s relationship with her dowdy daughter Eva, married to a parson and living in rural Norway.  The film opens with a narration from Eva’s husband, about his wife who had a career as a journalist, which she abandoned when she married. After a number of years they had a son, Erik, who drowned when he was 4 years old.

Charlotte’s longtime friend, Leonardo, has died and Eva invites her mother to the parsonage for a visit.  It is seven years since mother and daughter have seen each other. Charlotte learns that her mentally handicapped child, Helena, is now living with and being taken care of by Eva. A distraught Charlotte talks about Leonardo’s death and then visits Helena.

During dinner, where she appears in an elegant red dress, Charlotte gets a call from her agent offering her a lucrative concert engagement. Always unable to resist the lure of a large fee she accepts. She persuades Eva to play Chopin and then proceeds to humiliate her by playing the same piece and explaining how it should be interpreted. Eva is a picture of misery. Later when she leaves the room she overhears her husband revealing intimate details about her to Charlotte.

Having finished her accounts in bed, Charlotte falls asleep but wakes screaming from a nightmare in which Helena touched her. She spends the rest of the night in the living room with Eva who accuses her mother of neglecting her family in pursuit of her concert career.  In flashbacks we see Eva waiting, longing for her mother’s return. One of her memories is of one Easter where Leonardo and Charlotte joined Helena on a visit to the island of Bornholm. A rapport develops between Leonardo and Helena that seems to have a beneficial affect on Helena’s condition. A transcendent moment is created when Leonardo plays the cello to the assembled company and the scene is bathed in a soft, warm light. The following day Charlotte decides to leave early. Leonardo stays behind but grows restless and soon follows the feckless Charlotte to Vienna. Helena suffers a relapse.

Charlotte defends her behaviour to her daughter by citing one summer when she gave up practice to spend time with the family.  Eva confesses her unhappiness about that summer when she was 14 and unable to cope with her mother’s dominant personality. She breaks down.

Charlotte leaves and shots of her on a train with her agent alternate with glimpses of Eva walking to the cemetery to visit her son’s grave.

The film concludes with Eva writing to her mother begging for her forgiveness. She shows the letter to her husband and speculates that Charlotte will probably never even read it.  As he peruses it we see Eva and Charlotte’s faces in turn on the screen.  Eva’s husband replaces the letter in the envelope ready to take to the post office.

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