Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, Hostsonaten (Autumn Sonata) is the story of a celebrated classical pianist who gets an unexpected visit from her estranged daughter leading to a confrontation between the two. The film is an exploration into the dynamics of mother and daughter who are driven apart by ambition. Starring Ingrid Bergman, Liv Ullman, Lena Nyman, and Halvar Bjork. Hostsonaten is a chilling yet intense drama from Ingmar Bergman.
After having not seen each other for seven years, Eva (Liv Ullman) has asked her famous concert pianist mother Charlotte (Ingrid Bergman) to visit for a few days at her home. Charlotte arrives hoping the visit would be great as she’s greeted by her daughter and son-in-law Viktor (Halvar Bjork) as also there is Charlotte’s youngest daughter Helena (Lena Nyman) who has become physically and mentally disabled due to an illness. The meeting becomes tense due to lingering tension between mother and daughter as both try to be civil until later on at night where the two vent out their frustrations towards one another leading to revelations about their fragile relationship.
The film is about a mother-daughter reunion that eventually turns sour due to resentments as it’s told largely in the span of one day with some flashbacks in the story. Especially when a daughter asks her mother to visit in hopes of a reconciliation yet the lingering tension between the two eventually seeps in as the mother deals with her own regrets and wonder if she’s guilty for everything. Even as the daughter reveals her own hatred for her mother and the fear that she was consumed by for many years. It’s a film that explores the troubled relationship between mother and daughter as the mother is grieving the loss of a friend while the son-in-law tries to deal with the tension as well as caring for an ill sister-in-law who is also plays to the tension between Eva and Charlotte.
The film’s unconventional screenplay allows Ingmar Bergman to create a film that is quite intimate but also intense in the way he frames the actors and have Viktor open the film talking to the camera as if he’s talking to the audience about how he met Eva as she is in the background writing a letter. The way Bergman frames his actors in a scene or how he stages the conversations is among the many highlights of the film. Including the way he uses close-ups to play out the emotions that occur where he waits for something to explode. Even as he would have scenes where characters talk to themselves or flashback scenes to help tell the story.
Shot on location in Norway during Bergman’s tax exile period in Sweden, the film has few exterior shots as a lot of it takes place inside where Bergman allows the camera to be shot from afar or up close to see how the drama will unfold. Notably as it includes a lot of his stylized close-ups that plays up to the quiet tension between mother and daughter that includes a scene where they both play Frederic Chopin’s Prelude No. 2 in A Minor to establish the different emotions of these two women. It’s a key scene that shows who these women are in their personas where both present unique interpretations of Chopin’s piece. Overall, Bergman has crafted a truly mesmerizing drama that explores the troubled dynamics between mother and daughter.
Cinematographer Sven Nykvist does an amazing job with the film‘s photography where many of the interior lighting schemes play to different color palettes to display the look of autumn while using a similar light with dashes of green and gray for its exterior scenes as Nykvist‘s work is a true highlight. Editor Sylvia Ingmarsdotter does excellent work with the editing in using a few dissolves to introduce the flashback scenes while a lot of the cutting is straightforward. Production designer Anna Asp does extraordinary work with the sets for the home that Eva and Viktor live in as it includes a wonderful room to display the personalities of the characters including Eva and Viktor‘s late child Erik.
Costume designer Inger Perhsson does wonderful work with the costumes to display the different personalities of the two women with Eva wearing plain clothes while Charlotte wears more stylish, posh clothing to display her personality. The sound of Owe Svensson is superb for the intimacy created in the film as well as the volume of the conversation that plays out throughout the film.
The film’s cast is brilliant for the ensemble that is created as it features appearances from Linn Ullman as the young Eva, Georg Lokkeberg as Charlotte’s old friend Leonardo, Bergman regulars Gunnar Bjornstrand as Charlotte’s agent Paul and Erland Josephson as Eva’s father Josef in the flashback scene. Lena Nyman is excellent as the physically/mentally-disabled Helena while Halvar Bjork is great as Eva’s husband Viktor who tries to keep his distance from the tension between Eva and Charlotte.
Liv Ullman is incredible as the troubled Eva who tries to make some reconciliation with her mother only to feel disturbed by her own emotions over the neglect and resentment she’s faced as a child as it’s a truly terrifying role from Ullman. Finally, there’s Ingrid Bergman in her final film appearance as Charlotte where Bergman displays a wonderful sense of grace but also regret as a woman dealing with her own life as a classical pianist as well as her own failings as a mother where Bergman also displays a realism that is chilling to watch.
Hostsonaten is a marvelous yet haunting film from Ingmar Bergman that features magnificent performances from Ingrid Bergman and Liv Ullman. The film is definitely one of Ingmar Bergman’s most essential films of his career as he gives Ingrid Bergman one of her great performances of her glorious career. It’s also a film that explores the unique mother-daughter dynamic despite the film’s dark tone. In the end, Hostsonaten is an exhilarating film from Ingmar Bergman.
Ingmar Bergman Films: (Crisis) - (It Rains on Our Love) - (A Ship to India) - (Music is Darkness) - (Port of Call) - (Prison) - (Thirst (1949 film)) - (To Joy) - (This Can’t Be Happen Here) - (Summer Interlude) - (Secrets of Women) - Summer with Monika - Sawdust and Tinsel - A Lesson in Love - Dreams (1955 film) - Smiles of a Summer Night - The Seventh Seal - (Mr. Sleeman is Coming) - Wild Strawberries - (The Venetian) - (Brink of Life) - (Rabies) - The Magician - The Virgin Spring - The Devil’s Eye - Through a Glass Darkly - Winter Light - The Silence - All These Women - Persona - (Stimulantia-Daniel) - Hour of the Wolf - (Shame (1968 film)) - (The Rite) - (The Passion of Anna) - (The Touch) - Cries & Whispers - Scenes from a Marriage - (The Magic Flute) - (Face to Face) - (The Serpent’s Egg) - (From the Life of Marionettes) - Fanny & Alexander - (After the Rehearsal) - (Karin‘s Face) - (The Blessed Ones) - (In the Presence of a Clown) - (The Image Makers) - Saraband
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