Notebook

Autumn Sonata

Bergman’s Autumn Sonata made an indelible impression when I first saw it as a teenager. I’ve watched it again. It’s lost none of its power. The film is not reducible to pamphleteering issues: it is not about gender roles or career choices, not even primarily about parenting. It poses an existential, universal question: ‘Am I a human being able to love?’ When it was launched in 1978, the critic Lasse Bergström wrote: ‘Bergman has for a major part of his mature life as an artist moved towards chamber acting in a closed environment, in which a few people meet and speak to or past one another, in which dramatic space opens solely onto the landscape of the soul and of dreams. His new film Autumn Sonata has been produced in proximity to this path; still, something new has happened to the acting within the closed room. We are no longer meant to observe it from a distance. We are constrained to enter it, so to feel the impact of the mirrors that come crashing down upon us. Let me say it straightaway: I experience the affecting power of Autumn Sonata as something enormous and unique. Between two viewings I tried hard to think of any previous film by Bergman or anyone else that in the same naked way has struck me like a fistblow in the soul – but to no avail.’