Late Life

c sarristhe window 2 Late LifeThe Window
Running time 85 minutes
Written by Carlos Sorín and Pedro Maizal
Directed by Carlos Sorín
Starring Antonio Larreta

Carlos Sorín’s The Window (La Ventana), from a screenplay (in Spanish with English subtitles) by Mr. Sorín, in collaboration with Pedro Maizal, turns out to be a far more realistic and austere film than the work Mr. Sorín asserts inspired him, Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries (1957). As Mr. Sorín explains in his Director’s Statement: “At the beginning of the 60s, when I was a young spectator who spent his afternoons and evenings in cinemas with continued screen shows … I must have seen Wild Strawberries 15 to 20 times. … Later on, it disappeared from my life and I remembered it as the great love of adolescence. However, last year when I had concluded the script of The Window, once again, unexpectedly, I felt the need to watch it. … The movie still conserved its original intensity, but the surprise was that the script I was writing was in many respects, and without me being aware of it, an involuntary remake of Bergman’s film.”

In one respect, and in one respect only, do I find The Window at all comparable to Wild Strawberries, and that is in the real-life gravity and majesty of the aged protagonists of both films. In The Window, it is Antonio Larreta as old Antonio. Mr. Larreta is a Uruguayan writer, playwright and actor who has worked in both Spain and Argentina, and in 1980 received the Premio Planeta award for his novel Volavérunt; Antonio’s counterpart in Wild Strawberries was Victor Sjöström (1879-1960), who, with his friend Mauritz Stiller (1883-1928), elevated the early Swedish silent cinema to worldwide preeminence.

Looking at Mr. Larreta in The Window and Sjöström in Wild Strawberries, one is struck by the inescapable pathos of the most richly fulfilled lives as these lives approach the finish line.

Unfortunately, Mr. Sorín’s protagonist is much closer to the end, and much more infirm than Mr. Bergman’s. Whereas the old man in The Window is almost completely bedridden and attached to an IV, the old man in Wild Strawberries still drives everywhere at the wheel of his own car. Also, the Sjöström character has a much more active dream life than Mr. Larreta’s character. And, of course, there is much more talk of God in Mr. Bergman’s world than in Mr. Sorín’s. Not that this is necessarily a plus for Mr. Bergman’s films, particularly among his severest detractors. By the evidence of The Window, Mr. Sorín is probably an agnostic, if not an outright atheist. And there is no comparison between Mr. Sorín’s marginalized female characters and Mr. Bergman’s obsessively drawn women led by such charter members of his illustrious stock company as Bibi Andersson and Ingrid Thulin.

Still, The Window is not without a certain visual spell that makes it a first-rate artistic achievement. So see it, but be sure to order a DVD of Wild Strawberries, if only to confirm why The Window has struck me as something of a disappointment despite its undeniably greater realism than Wild Strawberries. Perhaps it is because I have reached a point in my life when I can do with a little less realism about old age that I’m so hard on The Window.

asarris@observer.com