Aaron Hills (Village Voice)
"We'll see how it is after all this time," says world-renowned concert pianist Pablo (Jorge Díez) as he uncorks the vintage bottle of champagne his estranged, ailing father Antonio (Antonio Larreta) has had chilled for this special encounter. Does memory, like that bottle, grow more precious and build character over time? Argentinean filmmaker Carlos Sorín (Historias mínimas, El Perro) gracefully reflects on late-life recollections and mortality itself in this wry, would-be narrative B-side to Terence Davies's nostalgic cine-essay Of Time and the City, inspired by the spirit of Bergman's Wild Strawberries. Wisely eschewing a musical score or a denser storyline to focus attention to its expansive images and scrupulous details, the film takes place over one day in the remaining life of Antonio, an octogenarian writer who only sees the world through his bedside window in the Patagonian countryside. As his staff prepares for his son's arrival and the piano tuner fills the hacienda with splintered notes, the limited stimulus sparks Antonio's memories, his final hours playing out like delicate, melancholic poetry. Before the feature, the Film Forum will screen George Griffin's short, The Bather, a whimsically clever reinvention of an animated film he made in 1973.
Stephen Holden (The New York Times)
An old man with a failing heart determinedly drags himself from his sickbed and sneaks out of the house while his caretakers’ backs are turned. Wearing pajamas and a Panama hat, supporting himself on a cane and carrying his IV drip, he totters into the yard, unlocks the gate and wades unsteadily into a field that stretches to the horizon. Horses are visible in the distance, and a stiff breeze is blowing. Deep into the field, he pauses to urinate; then he suddenly loses strength and sinks into the grass in a stupor.
This nearly wordless scene of a frail old man summoning the will power to make a final plunge into the great outdoors is the most poignant moment in the Argentine director Carlos Sorín’s film “The Window,” which he describes in the production notes as “an involuntary remake” of Ingmar Bergman’s “Wild Strawberries.”
The protagonist, Antonio (played by the noted Uruguayan playwright, novelist and actor Antonio Larreta), an 80-year-old writer living on his remote estate in Patagonia, is close spiritual kin to Isak Borg, the elderly professor played by Victor Sjostrom in the 1957 Bergman masterpiece.
Portentous dreams infiltrate both films. “The Window” begins with a voice-over narration in which Antonio describes a recent dream in which he is 5 or 6, and his mother introduces him to a beautiful baby sitter whose face has suddenly come back to him after nearly 80 years. Where had he stored this memory? he wonders. Now that it has returned, he wants to keep her image in his mind lest he lose it forever. As portrayed in the movie, she is a barely discernible form in a fog of remembrance.
The film goes on to follow a day — perhaps the last day — in Antonio’s life. As his bedroom clock ticks, he is slavishly served by two devoted housekeepers. His doctor, who visits, gently urges him to seek full-time hospital care, a prospect he refuses to consider, although his hacienda is so remote that communications with the outside world are conducted by shortwave radio.
On this particular day he is awaiting the arrival of his estranged son, Pablo (Jorge Diez), a renowned concert pianist now living in Europe. To prepare for the visit he has hired a piano tuner to recondition an old upright that hasn’t been touched in years. As the tuner extracts discarded toy soldiers stuck between the strings, it is clear that the instrument, like its owner, is probably beyond repair.
Even to the end, Antonio is a stern, imperious, hard-nosed skinflint. There is talk of checks that must be paid within a certain time. He is annoyed to discover that money he had hidden in a copy of Jorge Luis Borges’s “Universal History of Infamy” appears to be missing. Plucking a key from his pajamas, he instructs his servants to fetch a 40-year-old bottle of Champagne for a reunion toast.
When Pablo eventually appears, he is accompanied by his wife (Carla Peterson), an impatient woman chained to her cellphone. The Champagne is poured, and a toast is drunk, but it is just a polite formality, as one generation awaits the passing of the old.
“The Bather,” George Griffin’s three-minute short being shown with “The Window,” is an evocative collage in which an animated flipbook of a dancing woman is superimposed over the filmed image of a woman bathing behind a shower curtain to the sounds of Bach harpsichord music. The image of the bather through the curtain is as mysterious as Antonio’s baby sitter.
Andrew Sarris... el mismísimo (The New York Observer)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.