A Song For Martin

A touching examination of the ravages of Alzheimer's disease, made even more so by the extraordinary chemistry between Swedish actor Sven Wollter and his real-life wife, Viveka Seldahl, who died shortly after the film was completed. After years spent raising two children and enduring a lackluster marriage, violinist Barbara Hartman (brilliantly played by...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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A touching examination of the ravages of Alzheimer's disease, made even more so by the extraordinary chemistry between Swedish actor Sven Wollter and his real-life wife, Viveka Seldahl, who died shortly after the film was completed. After years spent raising two children and enduring a lackluster marriage, violinist Barbara Hartman (brilliantly played by Seldahl) leaves her husband for the man who has stolen her heart: famous composer Martin Fischer (Wollter). They marry and their life together is pure bliss: He composes and conducts, she plays in the Philharmonic, and they vow to always be honest and never abandon each other. Those promises are put to the test when their romantic idyll is abruptly shattered. One morning while shaving, Martin is suddenly unable to recognized his surroundings and begins to panic. The moment passes, but he soon after blanks out during a televised performance and must be escorted offstage. A CAT scan reveals the dreaded signs of incipient Alzheimer's, and the best prognosis Martin's doctor offers is the hope that disease will progress slowly. It doesn't. Barbara tries to help her husband complete his latest opera — a work, ironically enough, about the Creation — but each day Martin loses more of his memory, and his behavior grows increasingly erratic. Barbara must ultimately release Martin from his role as the man she once knew and still loves, and set him — and herself — free. Writer-director Bille August (PELE THE CONQUEROR) adapted his screenplay from an autobiographical novel by the late novelist and screenwriter Ulla Isaakson (THE VIRGIN SPRING), and uses a series of carefully positioned mirroring scenes to throw Martin's tragic decline into sharp relief. Barbara arranges a second honeymoon at the beach where they spent their first, but this time Martin slips away from the hotel and wanders the streets in his underwear, then later nearly drowns his wife when he forgets how to swim. Martin's early elucidation of The Magic Flute, written when Mozart was facing his own personal darkness, is echoed at a later performance of the opera when, unable to understand what's being sung, Martin begins shouting at the stage. August clearly appreciates the narrative potential of a degenerative disease like Alzheimer's, but never treats tragedy as a device. He also refuses to pull any punches when it comes to depicting just how awful life with Alzheimer's can be, for both those who have it and the people who care for them.

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: A touching examination of the ravages of Alzheimer's disease, made even more so by the extraordinary chemistry between Swedish actor Sven Wollter and his real-life wife, Viveka Seldahl, who died shortly after the film was completed. After years spent raisi… (more)

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