”In the end the daughter gives birth to her mother”
That’s how Ingmar Bergman envisioned the cathartic final resolution between concert pianist Charlotte Andergast and her daughter Eva. He wrote the first draft of the script for Autumn Sonata during a sleepless night on Fårö island on the 23rd of March, 1976, right after harrowing tax evasion charges against him had been dropped. Bergman’s reacted to the decision with unadulterated bliss, which manifested itself in a surge of creativity. He instantly knew that the main characters could only be played by Liv Ullman and Ingrid Bergman.
Nevertheless, as he wrote in the book Bilder (Images – My Life in Film, 2008), he could never realize his vision of how the daughter would give birth to the mother. He simply could not “drill deep enough.” Instead, Bergman allowed himself a surprising luxury: he was mildly unhappy with the entire film.
– My dear Ingmar, it has after all gone down in history as one of your best, it’s a real classic! Anyone who’s ever been moved by Autumn Sonata will remember it forever – and there are so many of us!
Why does Ingmar Bergman fail in his ambitious attempt? How could a daughter give birth to the mother so that two women, as he imagines,”are for some brief moments joined in total symbiosis?”
The drama’s conflict revolves around two women who are agonizingly close to each other. They both feel the need to connect, yet each find it impossibly difficult to respond to the other’s craving.
The two women are desperate to be loved, but neither seem to be certain about their own love. Are they capable of loving – or would they even want to love? The answer is ambivalent, particularly in Eva’s case. Does she want to forgive? Does she want to “give birth”? How could the two switch roles, making the daughter a mother to her own mother?
Ingmar Bergman’s script for Autumn Sonata ends in an epilogue, a letter that Eva writes to Charlotte without knowing whether it will ever reach her. In the letter, she professes to understand that she should’ve faced her mother with tenderness instead of consumed by her old, bitter hatred – that despite everything there can be compassion, “the incredible possibility that people might look after each other,” and that she, Eva, should have looked after Charlotte