During the rehearsals for his latest symphony, famous composer and conductor Martin Fischer (Sven Wollter) and first violinist Barbara (Viveka Seldahl) fall in love. Both are married with children, but leave their spouses and commit to eachotherr. After their honeymoon in Morocco, they create a home together in the Swedish archipelago, bound by their love for music. But while working on a new opera, Martin suddenly becomes forgetful and confused, and is eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. This becomes the ultimate test of the power of their love.
The Oscar-winning Danish director Billie August tried to move more into mainstream international cinema with adaptations of literary successes like The House of the Spirits and Smilla''s Sense of Snow. He's returned to Scandinavia for a movie with a greater sense of intimacy, A Song for Martin.
The well-known composer and conductor Martin Fischer (Sven Wollter), and Barbara Hartman (Viveka Seldahl), the first violinist of the orchestra performing his latest work connect, spark and in an instant it seems, leave their respective marriages for a passion and a new late-life marriage based on love and shared commitment to music. The debris left behind is given short shrift. They honeymoon in Morocco, they locate themselves idyllically in a house on the Gothenburg peninsular where family and friends come to visit and where they work harmoniously. And then tragedy strikes. Martin, at first seeming to suffer from stress while composing a new opera, is in reality displaying the first signs of Alzheimer's disease.
Based on a 1994 novel of Ulla Isaksson who's been a writer for over fifty years, A Song for Martin depicts, through two very strong performances, the poignant power of love as one partner in a relationship disappears from view.
The adjective 'clean' came to me while watching this film. Bille August's images are crisp, clearly defined, the storyline is direct, it is a narrative in its most simple sense. That's not to say the film doesn't have power, it does, but it doesn't transcend its basic material. Wollter and Seldahl were married in real life, their domestic scenes together have a natural resonance. Sadly Viveka Seldahl died shortly after the film was made, giving A Song For Martin an added sadness.