This was the first Danish stage production of Autumn Sonata and it featured highly acclaimed actress and Bergman associate Ghita Nørby in the part of Charlotte
About the production
The performance was also the first to be produced at the Portscenen stage of the newly built Skuespilhuset.
The Autumn Sonata of the Swedish-Hungarian director Hilda Hellwig shows to be almost as affected by the film medium as the film of Ingmar Bergman is affected by the theatre. When Charlotte reappears at her daughter Eva's house after an absence of seven years she is met by a daughter equipped with a video camera whose close-up images are projected at the walls of the stage. According to Jakob Steen Olsen in Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidene this serves as "a sort of homage to the great film master, whose greatest contribution to film art is the close-up of the human face."
Another difference from Bergman's film is the other daughter Helena's constant presence on stage. Also the deceased Leonardo is incorporated on stage by the cello player Anders Grøn.
The reception of the performance was overwhelmingly positive. In Danish paper Politiken Per Theil gave the performance the highest mark and wrote about the "incomprehensible presence" of the acting.
In Swedish evening paper Aftonbladet Claes Wallin pointed out that the stage production also adjusts the view on women that is transmitted in Bergman's film: "Eva is not as infantile in her expression as in the film, Helena much more of a human subject than Lena Nyman got to be and Victor is not as patriarchal". Also Wallin highlights the presence and rhythm of the acting.
Henrik Lyding writing for the Danish Jyllands-Posten thought that some artistic solutions felt unnecessary and that the projections on the walls were beautiful, but created a distance to the characters. Jakob Steen Olsen of Berlingske Tidene agreed, he was impressed, but however not moved by the performance.
- Claes Wahlin, Aftonbladet, February 22, 2008
- Jakob Steen Olsen, Berlingske Tidene, February 21, 2008
- Per Theil, Politiken, February 22, 2008
- Henrik Lyding, Jyllands-Posten, February 21, 2008
February the 20th 2008 Autumn Sonata opened at Det Kongelige's new stage house Skuespilhuset in Copenhagen. Ingmar Bergman.se had a quick chat with director Hilda Hellwig, the day before the premiere.
What is according to you the central theme of the play?
In the text the daughter Eva is the main character. She stages the meeting with her mother as well as famous pianist Charlotte Andergast like a - let us say unaware – act of revenge. The daughter confronts her mother when she is at her weakest, after the loss of Leonardo, her partner. Then she accuses her of treachery and the mother flees. In my version Eva, who is a journalist, is making a documentary film about the visit. She tries to reach under the skin of her mother. She tries to expose and prove her betrayal, her lies and, above all, her guilt. It is all very aggressive. But while this is being presented to us, it is suddenly transformed to – redemption. Maybe there is grace? That is also the question Eva raises in her letter to her mother by the end of the play.
Do you see any problems with the fact that Autumn Sonata was originally written for the screen?
Autumn Sonata is a very non-filmic film. It is theatre on film. The script consists of long monologues following each other like pearls on a string. Bergman gives the monologues rhythm through the editing so that we manage listening to them, and taking in their cruel content.
During a seminar you took part in during Long Live Bergman! in October last year you spoke of Bergman's feeling for rhythm in whatever media he was working with. How have you worked with the rhythm in your Autumn Sonata?
When I did my shortenings of the text I had not seen the film for a long time. When I saw the film again I noticed that in many cases I had done the identical shortenings as the director of the film! Most of them to create rhythm the text. Some shortenings I did to make it shorter. Theatre is a much slower medium than film.
How has the casting affected the performance?
Ghita Nørby is a brilliant stage- as well as film actress. To use film on stage not many are capable of. You behave differently to a camera than to a live audience. She can do both, at one and the same time. Knowing this was a great asset when I decided to use film on stage as a playful homage to the old great one.
Would you like to work with any other Bergman texts in the future?
I would very much like to continue working with Bergman's work. I would like to remain faithful to him the same way that he remained faithful to Ibsen, Molière and Shakespeare!
- Ingmar Bergman, Author
- Hilda Hellwig, Director
- Herbert Murauer, Designer
- Lars Egegaard Sørensen, Lighting design
- Asta Hoff-Jørgensen, Translation
- Ghita Nørby, Charlotte
- Tammi Øst, Eva
- Søren Spanning, Victor
- Laura Drasbæk, Helena
- Anders Grøn, Cello