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Archive for June 20th, 2019

 © 2019 by James Clark

       I can’t, for the life of me, regard Ingmar Bergman’s film, Autumn Sonata (1978), as the flat-out domestic clash others choose to believe. What is the real fascination and entry-point here, to me, is that the film’s protagonist, Eva, played by actress Liv Ullman, is made to look like a carbon copy of the actress, Ingrid Thulin, in the Bergman film, Winter Light (1963). Whereas Ullman generally holds forth as a flakey dreamboat, Thulin forever relishes looking and behaving scary. And, moreover, the latter’s performance, as an off again/ on again lover of a rural clergyman, looms very large in Autumn Sonata. Arguably the most contentious and demanding of all Bergman’s films, Winter Light needs to be carefully fathomed, if nonsensical soap opera is to be avoided here. Thulin’s Marta, in that 60’s puzzler, perseveres as a fatuous humanitarian infatuated by an angst-ridden atheist priest. The latter has come to detest her ugly body and her even more ugly attitude. But he is very fortunate that the sexton of the church (a retired, hunchback railway man, named Algot) is a far deeper student of spirit than he (which is to say, a far better acrobat)—quixotically larding his sense of Jesus as a misunderstood, sensualist mortal (mortal, period)—and, as such, a slow-dawning supplement of the so-called expert’s long-held, heretical orientation. It is this ironic eventuality of risk-taking which opens the door to Marta being still in the picture and now a beneficiary of a regime of that “juggling” of opposites so dear to the vision of this film series.

The return of the aura of Marta within the orbit of Eva effectively messes up the facile supposition that we are here to deal with the dynamics and possible salvation of a family. One other inspired touch, apropos of the elephant in the parlor, is the choice of career-long wayward Ullman’s adversary, namely, Hollywood star, Ingrid Bergman, a career-long, banner sentimentalist, in her swan song, as Eva’s mother—light years away from all her other pleasing roles confirming eternal feminine wisdom. As if to lend a hand in clarifying where these rather abstruse landmines lurk, the first scene ignores “timeless truths,” in order to broach something quite new. Eva is married to another clueless preacher, Viktor (no less), who idolizes her imaginative—Algot-like—zeal, and his is the sermon of the day. With Eva at her desk in the blurred distance, there is Viktor, just outside the study, addressing us, in close-up, with some good news, pertaining to her apparently significant, individual source of reflection, salient in its disinterestedness. (A preamble, to that singularity we’re supposedly to buy into by means of the acolyte/ guide, is Victor’s sense of seeming miraculousness in becoming her husband. This would constitute a sort of inversion of Jof and Marie, from the mother lode that is The Seventh Seal. It would also constitute this Norwegian backwater being a vaguely subversive agency.) (more…)

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