Two violinists playing in the same orchestra fall in love and get married, but they can't get along.Two violinists playing in the same orchestra fall in love and get married, but they can't get along.Two violinists playing in the same orchestra fall in love and get married, but they can't get along.Two violinists playing in the same orchestra fall in love and get married, but they can't get along.Two violinists playing in the same orchestra fall in love and get married, but they can't get along.
She's the only woman in the orchestra, but it's not exactly that they have love at first sight in the slightest. Their connection grows following a party where Stig gets drunk and makes a depressing grandstanding fool of himself in front of friends, and somehow his downbeat manner is charming to Marta. Soon they grow closer, even fall in love perhaps, though their future marriage is complicated by Marta becoming pregnant. This scene, when she reveals it three months on to Stig, is the first real crack in the relationship. It only cracks more, with the occasional patch-up, and the question stands more or less- as Stig is looking back on the relationship following his wife and one of his child's deaths- is what could have come from all of this?
Bergman deals with his characters, at this stage in his career, in trying to just find the simple and really not very simple truths of what Stig and Marta are together and separate. For the first half it almost looks like Stig is a bit too two-dimensional, particularly for a Bergman film (and Olin doesn't play him extremely well, even if he does deliver the beats fairly well, perhaps in line with his own character's inadequacies). He can't seem to enjoy anything that he does because he always wants more, to be a supreme soloist, than to have what he already has gotten. Marta, on the other hand, after having several potential men before going with Stig, tries her best to cope with having two kids that she probably wasn't totally thrilled to have in the first place.
There's a great little scene where Sanderby recounts walking in on Stig and Marta after having some kind of odd tender moment (as well as later on after having a quarrel), without them noticing Sanderby walk in, and the expression still underneath their faces when he formally walks in. In typical Bergman fashion we see the disintegration of a relationship (quite a brutal argument in bed really, more of emotional violence than physical), even if the sort of 'patching-up' period towards the end is a little weaker than what's come before.
So on the one hand there is this aspect, the drama of two people having a constant push-and-pull tie that binds them through Stig's delusions of grandeur and self-pity and fear manifesting in other forms (notably into the arms of another woman) and Marta's own semi-helplessness, which is very good, if imperfect, as classic Bergman storytelling. On the other hand it's also one of the best examples of classical music being used as incidental music: there's not exact musical score like if we hear music accompanying the characters giving the emotional cues during an argument scene or when Sanderby offers advice or gets irritated at Stig, but rather the music of Sanderby's orchestra (and Sjostrom, I might add, is pitch-perfect in the role of the weathered and brilliant second-banana conductor) fills in the spaces at times of the emotional context.
Probably the most successful, and joyful, scene is when Stig finds out Marta has the baby, by running out quick during a rehearsal, the music going along as he's on the phone, then continuing as he sits back down, and as Sanderby asks quietly of one musician who asks another to another to Stig what happened, as the music plays on. This, plus the second greatest cinematic interpretation of Beethoven's 9th symphony 4th movement in a climax (the first being Clockwork Orange), make To Joy worth seeing all by itself, if only for Beethoven fans.
As one of the several films included on the recently released Eclipse DVD series, To Joy will appeal to fans of Bergman's knack at telling of characters in shattered, honest romance, and to those looking for some classical music bliss and have seen The Magic Flute or Autumn Sonata too many times.
- Jul 30, 2007