My current Top 5

My current Top 5

3/24/2010

Best Actress 1978: Ingrid Bergman in "Höstsonaten"

Ingrid Bergman received her final Oscar nomination for what was also her final movie performance in the Swedish movie Höstsonaten. Ingrid played Charlotte Angergast, a famous pianist who visits her estranged daughter and her husband.

This was the first time that Ingrid Bergman worked with the famous Swedish director Ingmar Bergman who more than once has led actresses to give compelling and outstanding performances and Ingrid Bergman is no difference. What probably also helped Ingrid in her work was the fact that she acted in her native language which resulted in a very relaxed, but also outstanding performance.

When Charlotte first arrives at her daughter's house, she and Eva (played by the always amazing Liv Ullman) seem very happy about their meeting. Both are very polite and behave in the expected way but it seems that there is something beneath their friendliness – some unspoken truth that really defines their relationship.

Charlotte very soon starts to talk about Leonardo – a man who was very close to her and who recently died of cancer. The looks on Ingrid Bergman’s face when she tells how she was always with Leonardo in the hospital until he died is an overwhelming moment – the mix of grief, fear and relieve over her friend’s release is unforgettable.

While the movie goes on, the viewer learns more and more about Charlotte and her connection to her daughter. This visit is apparently the first time that they have seen each other in years – even when Eva’s little son died, Charlotte did not come. It becomes clear very soon that her career was always the most important thing for her. Charlotte toured the world while Eva was always of secondary importance – now and also years ago, when Eva was a little girl.

The tension between Eva and Charlotte can be felt at every moment of the movie. Charlotte is a rather cold and distant woman who tries to keep an emotional distance from Eva. Whenever they talk and chat, it always seems superficial and Charlotte seems to try her best to prevent any real closeness between her and her daughter. Whenever Eva opens up, talks about her dead son or other personal feelings, Charlotte obviously becomes uneasy.

The viewer also learns that Eva is not Charlotte’s only daughter – there is also Helena who is paralyzed and seemingly also suffers from a mental disease that prevents her from speaking or communicating in any way. It is obvious that Charlotte is not happy to see Helena – she would like to avoid meeting her but as a mother, she has no other choice. Ingrid Bergman wonderfully shows the conflict in Charlotte as she sits at Helena’s bedside. She again acts nicely and friendly as if nothing had happened, but from time to time we see how uncomfortable she is around her own daughter, maybe she is even ashamed. Eva herself later says that her mother gave a great performance in Helena’s bedroom.

Ingrid Bergman in no way tries to hide the fact that Charlotte is a woman who never cared about her daughters and who also doesn’t care about them now. But she is not a cold-hearted woman – instead, she never thought that she would harm her children in any way. In her own eyes, she did the best she could and as much as she could even if she always kept her daughters at a distance. For Charlotte, her live as a pianist was always more important than her life as a mother even if she maybe never admitted that to herself. But her distant nature has damaged her daughters more then she ever expected. The thin line between love and hate is constantly visible between Charlotte and Eva.

Finally, late a night, Eva lets her feelings overcome her and begins to talk about her hate, about the past and everything that was always a burden on her soul. Ingrid Bergman’s teary-eyed face in this night is probably the greatest close-up of her career. She doesn’t look glamorous, she doesn’t look like a star, but she looks real – a woman who finally has to answer for everything she has done.

Even though Ingrid Bergman doesn’t give the best performance of the movie (that honor goes to Liv Ullman who is just riveting as Eva), her magnetic movie star personality combined with her undeniable talent as an actress make her a dominating force.

Ingrid Bergman is wonderfully able to constantly show Charlotte’s emotional distance and her own justification for everything she did but she is able to mix it with a certain regret and fear. Her facial expressions when she watches her daughter play the piano is one of the greatest moments of Ingrid’s career. She shows that Charlotte is a woman who lives a live of pretending, who can associate with everyone but her own daughters and who finally has to look into her own past and her own soul to see who she really is.

This is surely one of Ingrid Bergman’s greatest performances. Her distant, emotionally unavailable mother is a timeless creation for which she gets

8 comments:

Sage Slowdive said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fritz said...

I think it is ONE of her best performances. I think the fact that Liv Ullman was so much better (for me, at least) influenced my opinion a bit...but, of course, Ingrid was wonderful.

joe burns said...

Great writeup! But I haven't seen this yet. This is what I think your ranking will be:

1. Ingrid Bergman
2. JIll Clayburg (Hopefully, you love her!)
3. Geraldine Page
4. Ellen Burstyn
5. Jane Fonda

By the way, what do you think is Bergman's best performance? And will you do 2004 next?

Fritz said...

Well, I don't think that I have seen enough of Bergman so far to make a fair judgement. I would say that Autumn Sonata, Gaslight and Notorious are surely among her best.

I planend to do 2004 and then 1950. I think that 2008 would be possible after that. :-)

joe burns said...

Oh great! Sorry for bothering you about 2008, but to me, it's a really strong year, and I hope you like Anne Hathaway! I hope Kate Winslet is your pick in 2004. 1950 will be interesting since I know you love Judy, but Swanson could edge her out. Am I right?

joe burns said...

And I decided to do 2006 on my blog. That's one of the best years ever to me! Is it possible to do that after 2008?

Fritz said...

lol, I don't know yet...I have 2004, 1950 and 2008 ahead of me, that's enough planing for now. :-)

About 1950: Who knows... :-)

Anonymous said...

Definitely one of her best performances, and one of the best performances ever, definitely 5 Luises. Amazing review, I agree that Liv Ullman was amazing as well, but I still prefered Ingrid. Keep up the good work!