Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata
In Bergman’s ‘Höstsonaten’ (Autumn Sonata) we bear witness to the 'terrible combination of feelings and confusion and destruction' that is the relationship between mother and daughter. The protagonists grapple with their place in the world and their tenuous sense of identity in relation to each other.
The daughter of a mother or the daughter of a pianist, the mother of a daughter or the inspired artist- in this legacy of chaos, the woman asks, ‘Who am I first?’, the human with an aching, gaping void, stifling a cry for comfort or a mother, a stoic refuge of care? But we cannot pick, we cannot choose, and so we inherit this confusion between an embrace and a tussle: how do you grow out of it? This discord emerges as Charlotte, the once revered artist, decides to visit her daughter, Eva after seven years. Being brought up by a mother to whom the maternal instinct didn’t come naturally, Eva grew reserved as a child. Decades of unsaid words, guilt and hate come to the fore as old wounds reopen and the past spills over into the present.
The uncompromising close-up of a Bergman film, where faces and eyes tell the story, becomes the stake he drives through our hearts. The tension is palpable in even the twitch of a jaw or the flitting of an eye and we are almost forced to watch in focused discomfort, to confront the scenes as our protagonists do, with each other. He lays out the bare bones of our condition and as we sift through it, we may not find answers. We may, however, find a little bit of ourselves in Ingrid Bergman when she says “I acquire memories and experiences but inside all that, I have not even been born”. And perhaps then, we can take a step forward in making sense of our existence.
By Tanisha Aggarwal