Autumn Sonata – The Criterion Collection #60 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Review Review)
September 23, 2013 by Dennis Amith
Ingmar Bergman’s “Autumn Sonata” is an intelligent, emotional and humanistic film about a strained relationship between mother and daughter. Featuring magnificent performances from Ingrid Bergman and Liv Ullman plus the inclusion of many special features including the 3+ hour making of documentary, the Criterion Collection 2013 release of “Autumn Sonata” is highly recommended!
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TITLE: Autumn Sonata – The Criterion Collection #60
RELEASE OF FILM: 1978
DURATION: 93 Minutes
BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Colors, 1:66:1 Aspect Ratio, Monaural Swedish with English Subtitles
COMPANY: Janus Films/The Criterion Collection
RELEASED: September 17, 2013
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Written by Ingmar Bergman
Produced by Richard Brick
Cinematography by Sven Nykvist
Edited by Sylvia Ingemarsson
Production Design by Anna Asp
Costume Design by Inger Pehrsson
Ingrid Bergman as Charlotte Andergast
Liv Ullmann as Eva
Lena Nyman as Helena
Halvar Bjork as Viktor
Marianne Aminoff as Charlotte’s Private Secretary
Arne Bang-Hansen as Uncle Otto
Gunnar Bjornstrand as Paul
Erland Josephson as Josef
George Lokkeberg as Leonardo
Autumn Sonata was the only collaboration between cinema’s two great Bergmans: Ingmar, the iconic director of The Seventh Seal, and Ingrid, the monumental star of Casablanca. The grand dame, playing an icy concert pianist, is matched beat for beat in ferocity by the filmmaker’s recurring lead Liv Ullmann, as her eldest daughter. Over the course of a day and a long, painful night that the two spend together after an extended separation, they finally confront the bitter discord of their relationship. This cathartic pas de deux, evocatively shot in burnished harvest colors by the great Sven Nykvist, ranks among Ingmar Bergman’s major dramatic works.
For Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, having a long career of magnificent films, from “The Seventh Seal” (1957), “Wild Strawberries” (1957), “Persona” (1966), “The Magic Flute” (185) and his drama series “Fanny and Alexander”, to name a few.
In 1978, Bergman shot his latest film titled “Autumn Sonata” outside of Oslo in Norway via his West German company, Personafilm GmbH, while trying to avoid Swedish tax authorities.
Ingmar Bergman would cast Swedish actress Ingmar Bergman (“Casablanca”, “Notorious”, “Spellbound”) in her last feature film alongside Liv Ullmann (“Persona”, “Shame”, “Cries & Whispers”) and Lena Nyman (“I Am Curious (Yellow)”, “Ronja Robbersdaughter”).
While the Criterion Collection released the original DVD back in 2000, “Autumn Sonata” will now be released on Blu-ray and DVD featuring a new 2K digital restoration.
“Autumn Sonata” begins with Viktor (portrayed by Halvar Bjork) talking about his wife Eva (portrayed by Liv Ullman) and how she is a writer and how she loves her writing. Eva is trying to get her mother Charlotte to come and visit the home in a remote area and writers a note for her to please come.
Charlotte (portrayed by Ingrid Bergman) arrives to Eva and Viktor’s home and as mother and daughter are happy to see each other in many years, their happiness is quickly squashed as Eva tells her mother that her sister Helena (portrayed by Lena Nyman) is also staying at their home.
Charlotte is shocked because since she is severely disabled, she was placed at an institution. But Eva explains to her that Helena has been staying with them for two years.
Their conversation is mostly one-sided as Charlotte, who is a prominent concert pianist, talks about her traveling all over the world and is quite busy but then the skeletons that were once in the closet, suddenly emerge. We learn that Charlotte was never home with her children because of her career.
She left their father for another man, each time Charlotte and Helena wanted to see their dear mother, she would never show up for long periods of time and when she does, she made them do things that they didn’t like, things that emotionally traumatized them. But for Eva, she did what her mother told her to do out of love, but because she never received love, she never knew how to love.
We learn that Eva and Viktor had a child who died of a drowning at four-years-old and not once did Charlotte come to see her grandchild. Viktor tries to explain to Charlotte that when they met, she told him that she was not in love with him, or rather she doesn’t know how to love whim. He worries about Eva because when she gave birth, it was the happiest that he had ever seen her. But since their child’s death, she still living as if he is still alive.
Charlotte starts to realize that all is not well with her daughter Eva. And once mother and daughter finally have a heart-to-heart conversation, Charlotte wants to hear from her daughter the truth…does she hate her?
And then Eva answers her mothers question… And everything that Charlotte has wanted to say her entire life, has finally come out.
“Autumn Sonata” is presented in 1:66:1 aspect ratio. The biggest difference that I noticed from this film versus the DVD versions of the film is the detail in the closeup of the faces of Ingrid Bergman and Liv Ullman. Also, colors are much more pronounce, well-saturated and the film features a good amount of grain. It’s also a film that despite its age, I detected no white specks or any problematic issues on Blu-ray. For the most part, it’s the definitive version of the film that is available at this time!
According to the Criterion Collection, the new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the original camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using Digital Vision’s Phoenix and the Foundry’s NUKE.
“Autumn Sonata” is presented in Swedish LPCM 1.0 and English Dolby Digital 1.0. Dialogue is clear through the center channel. The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35 mm magnetic track. Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation.
“Autumn Sonata – The Criterion Collection #60″ comes with the following special features:
- Introduction by Ingmar Bergman – (7:52) From a summer 2003 interview with Ingmar Bergman with SVT Svensk Television reporter Marie Nyrerod about “Autumn Sonata”.
- Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by critic Peter Cowie from 1995 discussing Bergman’s career, Ingrid Bergman, the process of finding Charlotte, Liv Ullman and more.
- The Making of Autumn Sonata– (3:26) A 206 minute documentary shot by Arne Carlsson on the set of “Autumn Sonata” showing the process of how the film came to be, rehearsals with cast and crew during production and more.
- Liv Ullman – (18:53) Featuring a 2013 interview with actress Liv Ullman discussing about coming home after working in America for many years and working with Ingmar Bergman and her memories of “Autumn Sonata”.
- Ingrid Bergman at the National Film Theatre – (39:22) Ingrid Bergman and critic John Taylor Russell discusses her career and working with director Ingmar Bergman (shot at the National Film Theatre in London in 1981).
- Theatrical Trailer – (2:29) The theatrical trailer for “Autumn Sonata”.
“Autumn Sonata – The Criterion Collection #60″ comes with a 22-page booklet featuring the essay “Mothers, Daughters, and Monsters” by Farran Smith Nehme.
Unsettling but natural emotions of a daughter who has suffered from emotional trauma, stuck inside her prison of not knowing to love, stuck within her conundrum of wanting to feel loved by the only person she has only dreamed of having an emotional connection, her mother.
Ingmar Bergman has always shown in cinema, life at its most darkest moment with possible hope. Bringing things out on the big screen of pure human emotion especially at times at its worst.
For “Autumn Sonata”, the film featured wonderful performances by Ingrid Bergman and Liv Ullman, taking the characters of Charlotte and Eva, mother and daughter and taking them through an emotional rollercoaster that starts off with love but then suddenly exposes that love as a facade and truth comes out of how daughter has felt towards her mother who was never there for her physically and emotionally.
While some critics found the film banal, because there were many films that were about parents not being their for their children. In fact, late critic Pauline Kael wrote of the film, “The whole film is like the grievances of someone who has gone into therapy – Mother did this to me, she did that to me, and that and that and that”.
While Roger Ebert was more favorable as one of his top films of 1978 writes “Autumn Sonata gives us a sort of long day’s journey into night in which the pleasantries of the opening hours give way to deeper and deeper terrors and guilt, accusations and renunciations, cries and whispers”.
Many have looked at “Autumn Sonata” as special because not only was it Ingrid Bergman’s final film, it was a collaboration of Sweden’s most important figures in cinema but also one of the best works of an older Ingrid Bergman. Bergman for this film, embodied class and showed wonderful presence as an actress that is opposite of the daughter that has spite towards her.
The character has avoid personal responsibility for career obligations and chose to focus on her musical work and not being home for her family. While today’s audiences may not sympathize as the parental and child connection of working parents is more common in today’s society, there are those who will believe in the importance of parents being their for their children during their time in need.
But this goes beyond a mother not being home for her children, it’s a mother who continues to alleviate herself from personal responsibility by making decisions for her daughters without their acknowledgement or hearing them out. She kept herself distant from her children emotionally and made decisions on them, of decisions she would make for herself as an adult and without communication of why their mother would make their children do certain things, Eva despised her mother for it but yet did what she said out of love. But what has it brought her? Happiness? Surely not. Did it make her mother come home to see her? Not at all.
The fact that Charlotte has kept herself distant even when Charlotte got married or had a child, she was busy with work.
And with the performance of Liv Ullman as the daughter without not knowing how to love, it’s pent-up frustration that slowly boils until she can not contain it any longer. Everything she has felt, must come out!
And then there is Helena, the daughter who has a degenerative nerve disease, also wanting the love of her mother but instead of showing compassion for her sick daughter, all Charlotte did was shirk responsibility for her daughter and put her in a home.
Yes, the film is among the many films about terrible mothers and how children suffer from it but unlike those other films, it’s the tension between mother and daughter with long shots of their emotional conversation. Bergman wants the audience to see the entire conversation, to show very few breaks but to see Eva let everything out, but unlike other films that try to find a resolution and closure, for those familiar with Bergman’s film, knows that he is the last filmmaker one should seek for closure or happy endings.
As for the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release, the new 2K remastering is much better for this release vs. its 2000 counterpart. Colors are much sharper, detail is much more evident especially during closeup scenes.
And as for this 2013 release of “Autumn Sonata”, with all the special features included, especially the 3+ hour documentary on the making of “Autumn Sonata”, it makes this release of “Autumn Sonata” much better than any previous release of the film. If anything, with the additional features with this remastered version of “Autumn Sonata”, the Criterion Collection has given us a wonderful release worth owning.
Overall, “Autumn Sonata” is an intelligent, emotional and humanistic film about a strained relationship between mother and daughter from Ingmar Bergman. Featuring magnificent performances from Ingrid Bergman and Liv Ullman plus the inclusion of many special features including the 3+ hour making of documentary, the Criterion Collection 2013 release of “Autumn Sonata” is highly recommended!
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