The most interesting particular about Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata is the fact that this is the first time the Swedish director has directed Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman. It makes one wish that they had teamed up a long time ago. The film, shot in Norway by Bergman’s Munich-based company and financed by the British, is a return to the world of complex human relationships which he abandoned briefly for the ill-fated Munich-made Serpent’s Egg.
Ingrid Bergmann is Charlotte, a famous concert pianist who finds herself emotionally alone when her lover of many years dies. She is invited to visit her daughter, Eva (Liv Ullmann), the wife of a country parson in Norway, whom she has not seen for seven years. The film deals with their reunion and the ultimate disclosure of their feelings for each other. It isn’t all love and sunshine, by any means.
One might expect Bergman, the director, to stack the cards a bit in favor of Ullmann but he has made Ingrid the much more colorful and interesting of the ill-matched pair. The camerawork by Sven Nykvist, devotes much of its exposure to the close-ups of the two women, and they are a lesson in facial histrionics.
The only principal male role is that of Halvar Bjork as Ullmann’s parson husband. Bergman buffs will, however, be able to spot some of his better-known males in silent cameos, including Erland Josephson as Josef, Bergman’s husband and Ullmann’s father, and Gunnar Bjornstrand as Paul, Bergman’s agent. Her conversations with him, on the phone and on a train trip, are in English. Ullmann’s (and Ingmar Bergman’s) daughter, Linn, plays her mother as a child. She is fetching but not yet an actress.