A Song for Martin (En Sång för Martin)

The real-life story of the lead actors makes this “in sickness and in health” love story that much more poignant.
A Song for Martin

Genre(s): Drama

Director: Bille August

Actors: Sven Wollter, Viveka Seldahl, Reine Brynolfsson, Linda Källgren, Lisa Werlinder, Peter Engman, Klas Dahlstedt, Lo Wahl, Kristina Törnqvist

Year: 2001

MPAA Rating: NR

Country: Denmark / Germany / Sweden

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Maestro Martin (Sven Wollter) falls for his first violinist Barbara (Viveka Seldahl), they begin an affair, and dump their spouses and adult children and run off together to get married. All is glorious in this very adult love story (meaning mature folks for a change), as they honeymoon in the Mediterranean. But their bliss is short-lived. Upon their return home, Martin slowly starts to forget things and struggles to complete the opera he is composing. Turns out he has Alzheimer’s, and that is merely the beginning of this “in sickness and in health” love story.

As we learned from the similar “brilliant artist reduced to child-like state” movie Iris, stories like these are depressing as hell. A Song for Martin has an extra edge over Iris, however, in that leads Wollter and Seldahl were real-life loves (adding real chemistry to their roles), and neither of their characters is particularly a saint. At times, Barbara is even sometimes cruel to the mentally deteriorating Martin, demanding that he do things that he obviously can’t handle (like finding a bathroom in a restaurant, or going for a swim in the sea). She only wants to be with the man she fell in love with and sacrificed her stable life for, not a man whom is slipping away from her.

Playing a diseased character is usually a scene-stealing showcase for an actor, but in this case, it is Viveka Seldahl who carries the movie as the suffering wife. She can be both nurturing and forgiving, but also exasperated and impatient with Martin. The fact that she is the stronger of the two is sadly lost in irony, as in real-life this was Seldahl’s last film. She died of cancer, supposedly in her Wollter’s arms, months after the completion of this film. Knowing that while watching A Song For Martin makes the film that much more of a poignant story of love and survival.

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