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Film / Autumn Sonata

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Autumn Sonata (Swedish title: Höstsonaten) is a 1978 Swedish-Norwegian-West German drama film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, starring Liv Ullmann and Ingrid Bergman. The latter, a namesake of the director but unrelated to him,note  had never worked with him before; this collaboration happened very late in her life, when she was already terminally ill, and was her final appearance in a feature film.note 

The film deals with a visit which the acclaimed pianist Charlotte Andergast (Ingrid Bergman) pays to her daughter Eva (Ullman), who lives in a secluded country house. At first the two women appear friendly, but fairly soon the truth about their past relationship becomes evident to the viewer and the story turns into one big Cerebus Syndrome.

Both Bergmans received Academy Award nominations (Ingrid for Best Actress, Ingmar for Original Screenplay), and the film has sustained a strong reputation since. It's received a Screen-to-Stage Adaptation several times (plays written in Swedish, English and Spanish, plus an Opera), and was adapted into Hindi as the 2003 Bollywood drama Tehzeeb.


  • Abusive Parents: Charlotte to Eva of course though it does not become clear immediately.
  • As You Know: The film gets across the info about Eva and Viktor having lost a son by having Eva say to her mom, "Erik drowned the day before his fourth birthday. But you know that."
  • Book Ends: The movie begins and ends with Eva writing a letter to her mother while Viktor talks directly into the camera about his feelings for her.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Viktor in the opening scene address the audience talking about his feelings for Eva and how they met.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: The movie. A full third of it is made up of one long confrontation between Eva and Charlotte.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: It always becomes harsher. In the very beginning an illusion is created that the relationship between the mother and the daughter is actually warm. It doesn't last long.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Charlotte is shocked to find that her disabled daughter Helena is in the household, living with Eva now. The next scene has Charlotte anxiously puffing cigarettes, sucking down tobacco smoke as she mutters about how she could cut her visit short and leave after four days.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: The childhood of Eva, the daughter of the famous pianist.
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named:
    • Leonardo, Charlotte's most recent husband, has just died from something that's never confirmed as cancer onscreen.
    • Helena, Charlotte's younger daughter, appears to be suffering from severe palsy, but it's never called anything but "her illness." Eva claims it's a direct result of Charlotte abandoning her.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: For Viktor who is indeed a bit older than his wife, composed and dignified.
  • Expo Speak: Viktor in the beginning relates the history of his marriage to Eva.
  • Freudian Excuse: Charlotte talks about how her parents were not very loving which is perhaps why she was unable to show any type of love for her children.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: Eva married Viktor shortly after they met, though it's eventually revealed that it was more about her longing for stability than Love at First Sight.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Charlotte made Eva have an abortion when she was 18; Charlotte thinks she was being supportive, Eva thinks she forced her and is still torn up about it.
  • Gratuitous English: In two scenes (talking on the phone with her agent, and with her companion on the train at the end) Charlotte has extended dialogue in perfect English (as should be expected from Ingrid Bergman). The ease of her English chatter compared to the trouble she has articulating herself in Swedish emphasizes how alienated Charlotte is from her own roots.
  • Happily Married: Charlotte says that she and her last husband Leonardo were that. In the course of 13 years of their marriage they never had a fight at least according to her.
  • Heel Realization: Charlotte by the end of the movie starts to become aware of how bad of a parent she was.
  • Hidden Depths: It does not become immediately clear how bad the relation between mother and daughter is. They are very cheerful when they meet.
  • It's All About Me: Charlotte's whole life, according to her daughter. Which made it worse when she tried to play a dutiful mother.
  • Nice Guy: Viktor is a generally nice guy who loves and supports his wife.
  • Only Sane Man: Viktor who is unable to anyhow soften the conflict between two women. He is absolutely at loss.
  • Parental Abandonment: Charlotte is not happy to learn that Helena, the sick daughter she had sent to an institution, is actually living with Eva and is really excited to finally see her mother for the first time in years.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: Though the relationship seems completely broken between Eva and Charlotte, Eva writes a letter to Charlotte asking to have her still in her life despite the fact she at first rebuked her. It was implied that Charlotte wants to still have that parental bond with Eva so there may be a chance the two will eventually reconcile.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Eva tries to play nice at first, but when the floodgates open...
    Charlotte: All these years of hatred. Why didn't you say something?
    Eva: Because you never listen. Because you run away from things. Because you're emotionally crippled. Because you actually loathe me and Helena. Because you're helplessly locked inside yourself, always holding yourself back. Because I loved you. Because you thought I was a failure, disgusting and untalented. And you damaged me for life, just as you yourself are damaged.
  • Speech-Centric Work: 1 hour and 39 minutes of two women sitting around and talking about their feelings.
  • Speech Impediment: For Helena, the daughter of Charlotte and sister of Eva.

Alternative Title(s): The Autumn Sonata