The Best Intentions
Directed by Bille August. Starring Samuel Froler, Pernilla August, Max Von Sydow, Ghita Norby. (1992)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 25, 1992
Working from Ingmar Bergman's highly personal script, director Bille August (Pelle the Conqueror) gives us a glimpse into the lives of Bergman's parents, from their hesitant first meeting in 1909, to their move to Stockholm in the summer of 1918. When we first meet him, Henrik Bergman (Froler) is a reserved, almost painfully shy young theology student -- he looks like a character out of an Ibsen play. Invited to dinner at a friend's home one night, he meets, and simultaneously becomes enamored of, young Anna Akerblom (Pernilla August), the daughter of Johan (Sydow) and Karin (Norby). Against nearly everyone's better wishes, the couple fall in love, are married, have a son, Dag, and move to a country parish where Henrik finds himself torn between loyalty to his wife and family and his responsibility to his calling. At almost three hours length, The Best Intentions is a lush period piece that manages to keep the audience more or less absorbed despite its lengthy running time. Trapped in turn-of-the-century Sweden, where a rigid class-system holds sway, Henrik finds himself running up against the indomitable will of Anna's mother, a powerful matriarch who feels it would be beneath her daughter's standing to marry this meek little theologian. Von Sydow (who seems to be popping up all over these days -- he supplies the narration in the recent film Zentropa, as well) is here in a smallish part, that of Anna's elderly father, a kind and loving -- though ineffectual -- old man who wants nothing more than to see his daughter happy. It's not much of a role, really, though von Sydow's presence in the film no doubt adds marquee value that might otherwise be lacking stateside. August keeps the pace moving right along, never allowing the personal nature of the story to get in the way of his film's narrative drive. The Best Intentions, isn't for everyone, but then that should go without saying. If you're the type who thinks Wild Strawberries go great with Cool Whip, then maybe a three-hour rhapsody on the marriage of Ingmar Bergman's parents isn't for you. For those looking to be stylishly entertained while learning more than anyone might ever want to know about the formation of the Bergman psyche, well, here it is.