""Brother Carl" is Susan Sontag's second movie. But it is the first movie in which she seems to see film as a means to life rather than as a repository for ideas. "Duet for Cannibals" (1969) really dealt with a kind of rarefied mental cannibalism. In a very open way, "Brother Carl" really deals with human relationships.Two women, Karen and Lena, visit an island, a Swedish resort, where Lena's ex-husband, Martin, lives in comparative seclusion with a mentally disturbed ballet dancer named Carl. Carl is brother by guilt rather than blood, for Martin is somehow responsible for his breakdown, and Carl, who totally depends upon him, regards him as an enemy.Lena is young and full of life, and to some extent "Brother Carl" is the story of how she offers her life, first to Karen, then to Martin, and finally to Carl—before committing it in total and apparently wasteful sacrifice. Karen is older and very tired, and to some extent the film is the story of how her life is saved by the enigmatic Carl, who forms a bond with her own desperately withdrawn young daughter, Anna, and effectively brings the girl out of her private distances and back into the world.I have greatly simplified the story, which is very complex and full of symbolic event and confrontation, and which is also a little foolish. In a sense, "Brother Carl" is all about learning to give, and its climactic "miracle" (Miss Sontag's word) is essentially to evoke laughter from a little girl. These suggest sentiments worthy of Hollywood in the 1930's and 1940's, but that Miss Sontag is willing to treat them openly and seriously is, paradoxically, perhaps her greatest source of strength.There are a directness and an awkwardness of gesture and of larger movement in "Brother Carl" that count among its most attractive qualities, and that go a long way to compensate for its occasionally strained pretensions. It is a very imperfect film, with one bad performance (Genevieve Page as Karen) and several performances that seem to have been directed toward an excessive inexpressiveness.But I think that it indicates the taking of considerable imaginative and emotional risks, as "Duet for Cannibals" did not, and the result is a real movie."Brother Carl" was filmed in Sweden with an English-language sound track. It opened yesterday at the New Yorker Theater.
The CastBROTHER CARL, directed and written by Susan Sontag; photography, Rune Ericson; edited by Lars Hagstrom; music by Torbjorn Lundquist; produced by Sandrew Film & Theater AB: released by New Yorker Films. At the New Yorker Theater, 88th Street and Broadway. Running time: 97 minutes. This film has not yet been classified.Carl . . . . . Laurent TerzieffLena . . . . . Gunnel LindblomKaren . . . . . Genevieve PageMartin . . . . . Keve HielmPeter . . . . . Torsten WahlundAnna . . . . . Pernilla Ahlteldt