Taking time's pulse
Directed by Liv Ullmann
Starring Karen-Lise Mynster, Ghita Norby, Erland Josephson, Torban Zeller
Palace Brighton Bay Cinemas and Rivoli Cinema Camberwell from June 24
Reviewed by Ulrike Erhardt
This is the directorial debut of Liv Ullmann. Born to Norwegian parents in Japan, she lived her early years in Canada and New York and returned to the family home in Norway when World War II ended. Married to Ingmar Bergman, she only began to write and direct after divorcing him.
Sofie, so the plug says, is "The Life of a Woman Drawn to Passion. Bound to Duty." One could add that all similarities to our or Liv Ullmann's life are purely intentional, because throughout the film one can never get rid of the feeling: I know this person; I know this situation; this could be me.
Liv Ullmann has her hand on the pulse of time. The book on which the film is based was written by Henri Nathansen in 1932, but in adapting it to the screen Ullmann has chosen a setting in 1886 — a chilling reminder that nothing much has changed in relationships since.
Sofie begins slowly, but the action picks up when Sofie (Karen-Lise Mynster) can't get the gentile painter Hojby (Jesper Christensen), the man she loves: her parents insist on a Jewish husband.
Sofie is saved from spinsterhood by her cousin Jonas (Torban Zeller), who asks for her hand in marriage. A grateful old girl she is; even if not in love with him, she tries to make the best of a bad situation. Things get worse when Jonas feels outshone by her, causing his fragile ego to dissolve quickly.
Totally preoccupied with one another, grandpa (Erland Josephson) and grandma (Ghita Norby) are blissfully unaware of their daughter's misery and enjoy their grandson. It takes a while until Sofie understands that she mustn't deal her son a similar hand and reluctantly loosens her loving grip on him a bit.
A film with emotional impact, and Jewish life has seldom been described more elaborately, but I objected to the length of 2