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The Best Intentions (1992)

Den goda viljan (original title)
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The story of Ingmar Bergman's parents. In 1909, poor, idealistic theology student Henrik Bergman falls in love with Anna Åkerbloom, the intelligent, educated daughter of a rich family in ... See full summary »

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4 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
Johan Åkerblom
Ghita Nørby ...
Karin Åkerblom
Lennart Hjulström ...
Mona Malm ...
Alma Bergman
...
Keve Hjelm ...
Fredrik Bergman
...
Ernst Åkerblom
Börje Ahlstedt ...
Carl Åkerblom
Hans Alfredson ...
Kyrkoherde Gransjö
Lena T. Hansson ...
Magda Säll
...
Drottning Victoria
Elias Ringquist ...
Ernst Günther ...
Freddy Paulin
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Storyline

The story of Ingmar Bergman's parents. In 1909, poor, idealistic theology student Henrik Bergman falls in love with Anna Åkerbloom, the intelligent, educated daughter of a rich family in Uppsala. After their wedding Henrik becomes a priest in the north of Sweden. After a few years Anna can't stand living in the rural county with the uncouth people. She returns to Uppsala, Henrik stays in the north. Written by Robert Stroetgen <stroetgen@rrz.uni-hamburg.de>

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Ett filmepos av Bille August efter Ingmar Bergmans egna ord See more »


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Release Date:

10 July 1992 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Best Intentions  »

Box Office

Gross:

$1,300,000 (USA)
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Trivia

First non English language/American film to win the Palme d'Or after three consecutive years. Pelle the Conqueror (1987) was the last non English language/American film to win the award and was also directed by Bille August and featured Max von Sydow in a key role. See more »

Connections

Edited from The Best Intentions (1991) See more »

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User Reviews

 
not just a revealing look at the psychologies of Bergman's parents, but a melodrama-free story of cold romance
23 December 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

It's always kind of staggering to think of other films that deal with love and marriage and the twisted ties that bind when compared to what Ingmar Bergman does in his scripts. Stripped away from the problems that come with such dangerous clichés like the old mother forbidding her daughter from being together with a man she just does not like, or with the marriage being strained by outside influences. Maybe the latter isn't much of a cliché as it might be a convention, but it's all dealt with by Bergman in his story of Henrik Bergman and Anna Bergman with complete, un-filtered honesty, even in the harsher moments. While it's not actually one of his very best scripts, with a couple of flaws here and there and it not being quite long enough (i.e. Scenes From a Marriage and Fanny & Alexander being five hours each), it has more emotionally shattering moments, and even under-stated ones, that would make most other dramas about a relationship in trouble meek in comparison.

That being said, it's also not technically a Bergman film, but directed through Billie August with maybe a slightly differed sensibility. Yet it's not by that much, aside from specific choices in the music (I don't think Bergman would have used the musical accompaniment, not that it's bad but it tells of what is usually different and less frequent for the material), and because of the nature of the material and the characters, it's not surprising if the Best Intentions feels more like a Bergman film than August. The rhythm of the acting, too, feels like it still is out of those vintage masterpieces of the 60s and 70s. Here we're given the story of how Henrik (Samuel Froler) and Anna (Pernilla August) came to be husband and wife. It's basically in two halves- the first dealing with Karin Akerblom (Ghita Nørby), Anna's mother, and her dire attempts to keep the two away from one another. And at first Anna agrees, but soon the attachment to one another can't be broken, even through an early affair Henrik has with a waitress and Anna's tuberculosis scare.

Many specific scenes, like a very harsh (though always under the surface) scene between Karin and Henrik, when she tells him point blank to leave and never come back to see Anna, or when Anna is told after the death of her father Johan (Max Von Sydow, always great to see him even in limited time) about how she destroyed a letter she found that she meant to sent to Henrik. So much of this is so powerful for how all of the dialog, all of the little notes and emotion in the action penetrate to the core elements of the drama. Sometimes I felt like I was seeing even deeper truths being reached about parents and children (not only Anna with her mother but Henrik with his family- both have tarnished relationships, but however much forgiveness is left off or ties severed shows also how the children become as they are), and a take on the free will vs. determinism of such a decision. So all of this is always fascinating, seeing this 'version' of Bergman's parents and their struggles to be together- Henrik the sort of cold yet compassionate loner parish/priest, and Anna the very warm and heartfelt soon-to-be-mother- as they both have head-strong tendencies.

I can't say how much of what unfolds in the 2nd act holds up as being totally true to what Bergman's parents lives were, but then who could? It's all made for dramatic sake, anyway, but what ends up sticking most is the friction in their marriage early on, when they move away to a small, working-class village where Henrik wants to work as the village pastor. It's in this section that the flaws arise, but not big ones, only enough to keep it odd yet intriguing. Like the character of Petrus, who is a weird little trouble-maker who is too sickly and frustrated to live with his parents, so Henrik and Anna take him in, which turns out disastrously. But there needs to be either more context with this character (and, indeed, a version of this film- a mini-series for Swedish TV- is double the length), or nothing at all, as everything that needs to be said about the strife in the two of them is actually there in the sub-plot with the angered villager Nordenson. And with the ending, it's satisfying, in a catharsis way though it's not as great, or even perfect, an ending it could have been had a certain decision been made on Henrik's part when he sees Anna outside.

I won't mention what, but it doesn't matter at any rate. What makes The Best Intentions a gem in the Bergman cannon is his trust in the audience to take these 'characters' as full-on human beings, who have the utmost trouble with one thing, compromise and the real meaning of love for one another- connection, which is what Bergman goes for in most of his films. And helping this greatly are the main actors, who elevate an argument mid-way through (regarding the location of the wedding) to the powerful terrain it's reaching for. August fits the requirements of her character just as Froler does, even if Froler ends up being slightly more constricted due to the nature of his own self-restrictive and hard-pressed priest. In the end, The Best Intentions makes wonderful use of autobiography for the stuff of an often gut-wrenching romantic drama where the personal goes into the theatrical, and the direction and acting brings out the best in Bergman's voice in his golden-age.


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