"The Wages of Adultery"
A SONG FOR MARTIN is an ode to the conflicting demands of creative genius by Swedish film auteur Bille August, a protégé of Ingmar Bergman. In many ways, Bille August has developed a more moral stance to his stories then his mentor.
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.
(BB, C, H, LL, V, S, NN, A, D, M) Ultimately moral worldview of an immoral adulterous affair with some Christian elements including a closing prayer as well as some humanist elements; 5 obscenities & 7 light profanities, mostly "Oh, God"; husband & wife fight & man wrestled into submission twice; adultery & several brief scenes implying fornication; partial nudity, shadow nudity & rear male nudity in a clinical environment; drinking; smoking & medical use of drugs; and, lying to spouse after promising never to lie.
A SONG FOR MARTIN is a tragic ode about the wages of adultery by Swedish filmmaker Bille August. At a symphony rehearsal, the first violinist, Barbara, is captivated by the maestro, Martin Fisher. She has an affair with Martin, betraying her marriage vows. Then, she tells her grown children she's getting a divorce. She marries Martin, but all too soon Martin acquires Alzheimer's. He goes through anger and rejection, and he cannot finish his symphony. Thus, Barbara's dreams turn into a nightmare.
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.