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Ingrid Bergman - Star of the Month
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Remind Me

Intermezzo (1937)

Holger Brandt is a world-renowned violinist returning to Sweden after a long tour. His constant travels betray an inability to settle down with his family. Anita, a talented student of Holger's regular accompanist Thomas, is giving piano lessons to his daughter. When Thomas announces his intention to retire, Holger asks Anita to become his accompanist instead. At first she is reluctant, since she doesn't want to interrupt her studies. In time the two fall in love and Holger decides to leave his wife; the two embark on a successful concert tour. However, their relationship reaches a crisis when Anita receives a grant to study in Paris and Holger's daughter is suddenly injured, forcing him to face his family obligations.

The original version of Intermezzo (1936) was arguably the key Swedish film of the 1930s and was a smash hit in Sweden, thanks in no small part to Ingrid Bergman's performance. It also helped bring Swedish cinema back to international attention after a severe decline from its heyday of the mid-teens through the mid-twenties, when the country's two greatest directors Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller, together with the country's greatest star, Greta Garbo, suddenly departed for Hollywood.

In fact, for Swedish audiences, Intermezzo represented the felicitous reunion of three major talents from the most successful melodrama of the previous year, Swedenhielms (1935): first was Ingrid Bergman, who had already demonstrated a fresh and vital screen persona by her first starring role in The Count of the Old Town (1935); second was the popular leading man and noted Shakespearean actor Gosta Ekman; third was the director Gustaf Molander, who was the most important Swedish filmmaker after the departure of Sjostrom and Stiller. Bergman had become Molander's favorite actress; he would later praise her "wonderful grace and self control," adding with his characteristic modesty: "I created Intermezzo for her, but I was not responsible for its success. Ingrid herself made it successful through her performance. The truth is, nobody discovered her. Nobody launched her. She discovered herself." Molander and Bergman made a total of six films together before she departed for Germany and later the U.S.

The period immediately following the film was also important for Bergman in terms of her personal life. On July 7, 1936, less than a month after Intermezzo had finished production, she married Petter Lindstrom, a physician whom she had already been seeing for two years. Bergman began to look into developing a career outside Sweden at this time; her first choice was Germany. Her late mother, Friedel Adler, was from Germany, Bergman was proficient in German, and Goebbels had displayed an interest in having her join the German film industry. According to biographer Donald Spoto, Bergman took little interest in politics; while her boyfriend Lindstrom was disturbed by the situation in Germany, Bergman ignored it and even saluted Hitler in order to please her Aunt Mutti, who was an ardent Nazi. She soon returned to Germany to make The Four Companions (1938), which was poorly received by the critics in Sweden. Later in life Bergman expressed regret for her failure to recognize the terrible reality around her in Nazi Germany.

While Germany proved to be an artistic dead end, Hollywood would be altogether more fruitful. The reception of Intermezzo in the U.S. was extremely enthusiastic; the reviewer in Variety wrote: "Intermezzo takes its place among the finest foreign pictures to be shown on American soil this year. It is poignant, full of pathos, and above all, has shown, in Ingrid Bergman, a talented, beautiful actress. Miss Bergman's star is destined for Hollywood." The producer David O. Selznick, who was recommended the film by one of his assistants, was immediately struck by Bergman's "natural" qualities and decided to remake the film in a 1939 English-language version with Leslie Howard playing the male lead.

Of all the film genres, melodrama tends to date the most badly; what seems sincere and touching to one generation often appears hokey and naive to the next. Thus Peter Cowie, a noted scholar of Scandinavian cinema, writes of the film: "Intermezzo may cloy now, and its Tyrolean villages may look ridiculously false and old-fashioned, but one recoils from it not so much because of any technical deficiencies, but because it represents the innocence of childhood to which an embittered postwar generation is loath to return." Nonetheless, the film still retains a good measure of its appeal today thanks to Bergman's luminous presence.

Director: Gustaf Molander
Screenplay: Gustaf Molander and Gosta Stevens
Cinematography: Ake Dahlquist
Music: Heinz Provost
Principal cast: Gosta Ekman (Holger Brandt), Ingrid Bergman (Anita Hoffman), Inga Tidblad (Margit, Holger's wife), Hasse Ekman (Ake, Holger's son), Britt Hagman (Ann-Marie, Holger's daughter), Hugo Bjorne (Thomas).
BW-93m. Closed captioning.

by James Steffen

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