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Paisley Livingston

This chapter identifies three rival interpretations of Autumn Sonata. A first reading describes a work that, like Face to Face, was conceived along Janovian lines, and that consequently resonates positively with the tenets of Janov’s psychology. The second and third interpretations both deny that Autumn Sonata is consistently Janovian. According to one kind of ‘non-Janovian’ interpretation, Bergman worked with significant Janovian premises as he conceived of the story and characterizations for Autumn Sonata, yet for various reasons, the director did not, finally, go on to make a thoroughly Janovian work. An alternative interpretation contends that Bergman had taken some critical distance from at least some of the main tenets of Janov’s psychological theory and successfully expressed these reservations in his film. In other words, Bergman was not thoroughly or consistently persuaded of the truth of Janov’s theoretical contentions, either at the time of his initial, enthusiastic reading of The Primal Screen or upon subsequent reflection. On the basis of an examination of the relevant evidence, the chapter argues that although Bergman undeniably sought to bring out a story along Janovian lines, he ended up with one that instructively manifests ways in which that doctrine is incomplete and problematic.

in Ingmar Bergman
Abstract only
Edward Buscombe
Peter Hutchings
Paisley Livingston
, and
Amy Sargeant

Film Studies