A SONG FOR MARTIN
The Wages of Adultery
Release Date: December 21, 2001
Starring: Sven Wollter, Viveka Seldahl,
Reine Brynolfsson, Linda
Kallgren, Lisa Werlinder, &
Rating: Not Rated by the MPAA
Runtime: 118 minutes
Distributor: First Look Pictures
Director: Bille August
Producer: Lars Kolvig, Michael Obel,
Michael Lundberg, & Bille
Writer: Bille August
Address Comments To:Robert & Ellen Dinerman Little, Co-Chairs
First Look Pictures
A division of Overseas Filmgroup
8800 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90009
Phone: (310) 855-1199
Home Page: www.flp.com
A SONG FOR MARTIN opens with a symphony rehearsal. The first violinist, Barbara, is captivated by the maestro, Martin Fisher. He notices her interest and responds. Soon thereafter, she comments to herself in a voiceover that she has her first affair with Martin, thus betraying her marriage vows.
Within a very short period of time, she is sitting at the table with her daughter, Karin, and her son, Phillip, both of whom have their own families, and telling them that she's getting a divorce. Phillip is devastated and discovers that Barbara's husband, their father, is too.
Of course, Barbara is following her emotions; after all, she is an artist. So, she runs off and marries Martin, who also abandons his wife. They have an exquisite honeymoon with lots of marital intimacy, but then, out of the blue, Martin calls her Alice, the name of his first wife.
Soon, it becomes clear that Martin has Alzheimer's and is sinking fast. He goes through the normal stages of Alzheimer's, including violent anger and rejection. He has to be dragged out of a concert. He cannot finish his symphony. Thus, Barbara's hopes and dreams have been turned into a nightmare.
Like many of Mr. August's films, this is a powerful yet subtle message: the wages of Barbara's sin are all too clear. The affair and subsequent remarriage destroyed her career, her family, her beloved Martin, and, in fact, everything around her. Martin, in his diminished state, fears and hates her, and finally, she recognizes that she has pursued him into retreating into himself.
What's more interesting is that Mr. August ends with a Christian prayer, indicating that God is the only answer to such a problem.
A SONG FOR MARTIN is a beautiful film, though not perfect. Like many character studies, it sometimes loses its emotional momentum and drags slightly. A little judicious editing would have helped the film tremendously. Although it is not Mr. August's best work, it is beautiful, even though the topic of the movie is very depressing.
There are quick shots of lovemaking, but nothing salacious, and the intimate relationship is always brief and in shadow or under water. More vivid is Martin's loss of his bodily functions, soiling himself in his bed and relieving himself in a restaurant.
The beautiful score by Stefan Nilsson deserves special mention. Furthermore, the actors are superb. Sven Wollter as Martin Fisher creates an incredible portrait of a man descending into Alzheimer's. The audience feels and experiences his descent as if it were our own. Viveka Seldahl (Wollter's real-life wife) makes Barbara so real that the audience will want to flee her passion.
Mr. August uses Alzheimer's as a metaphor for loss. Mr. August composes the movie of the life of composer Fisher as an unfinished symphony.
Ultimately, A SONG FOR MARTIN is a morality tale with a redemptive ending, but it is done very subtly. The cost of Barbara's adultery is extremely high. For much of the movie, there is a tremendous sense of jeopardy. The audience fears where it's going, and doesn't want the story to go there. Therefore, the ending is even more unexpected.
It appears that A SONG FOR MARTIN is aimed at an unbelieving audience. It is also very European, and the subtitles are more important than many movies because it is so dependent on dialogue rather than action. Those who know that adultery is wrong don't have to be put through this pain and can only hope that those who don't know adultery is wrong, will get the message.
The wages of Barbara's sin are all too clear. The affair and remarriage destroy her career, her family, and her beloved Martin. Even so, the movie ends with a Christian prayer. A SONG FOR MARTIN is a beautiful film, though not perfect because it sometimes loses its emotional momentum. Also, the topic of the movie is very depressing. There are quick shots of lovemaking, but nothing salacious. More vivid is Martin's loss of his bodily functions. The beautiful score by Stefan Nilsson deserves special mention, and the actors are superb. Mr. August uses Alzheimer's as a metaphor for loss and composes the movie of Fisher's life as an unfinished symphony.