The Best Intentions

Last updated

The Best Intentions
Den goda viljan.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Written by Ingmar Bergman
Directed by Bille August
Starring
Country of originSweden
Original languageSwedish
Production
Producer Ingrid Dahlberg
Cinematography Jörgen Persson
Running time325 minutes (television) [1]
181 minutes (theatrical) [2]
Budget kr 67 million [3]
Original release
ReleaseDecember 1991 (1991-12)

The Best Intentions (Swedish : Den goda viljan) is a 1991 Swedish television drama film directed by Bille August and written by Ingmar Bergman. It is semi-autobiographical, telling the story of the complex relationship between Bergman's parents, Erik Bergman and Karin Åkerblom, who are renamed Henrik and Anna in the film but retain their true surnames. The film documents the courtship and the difficult early years of their marriage, until the point when Anna becomes pregnant with their second son, who corresponds to Ingmar himself. Samuel Fröler and Pernilla August played Henrik and Anna, respectively.

Contents

Ingmar Bergman wrote the screenplay based on scattered notes and conversations with his parents in their later years. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Swedish films ever made. It can be viewed as a continuation of Bergman's 1982 film Fanny and Alexander . After Bergman had ostensibly retired from directing following Fanny and Alexander, he chose August as his director on the strength of the latter's 1988 Pelle the Conqueror , on condition that Pernilla August be cast as Anna.

The film was condensed into a theatrical version in 1992 and won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Plot

In the early 20th century, Henrik Bergman is studying to be a parish minister under the Church of Sweden. A poor man, he meets the wealthy Anna Åkerblom through his friend, Anna's brother Ernst. Anna is vain and stubborn, and in Henrik's belief she is elitist, yet she is also attractive and capable of enjoying pleasure. Although Henrik lives in a sexual relationship with Frida, a waitress, Anna seduces him and proposes an engagement. As Henrik and Anna begin to see more of each other, Henrik secretly continues living with Frida. While speaking with Anna's mother Karin, Henrik confesses that he feels unwelcome among the Åkerbloms. Karin tells him frankly that she feels Anna needs a mature man who can nurture her, but he is lacking on both counts. Karin also tells Anna that Henrik is still living with Frida, a fact verified by the family. Henrik and Anna stop seeing each other until Frida appeals to Anna to take Henrik back, citing his misery.

While Anna is treated for tuberculosis in Switzerland, a brother is sent to tell Henrik that she no longer wishes to speak to him. However, unknown to her parents, Anna sends a letter to Ernst to be forwarded to Henrik, telling him she wishes to resume their relationship. Her parents receive the letter and Anna's father Johan opens it, after which Karin reads it and burns it. After Johan dies, Karin confesses the act to Anna, who angrily seeks Henrik. By then, Henrik is planning to go to Forsboda, a remote village in northern Sweden, to work in a parish whose head minister is aged and ailing. Anna resolves to go with him, and they marry despite their class conflicts.

The Bergmans have their first son, Dag, but Henrik becomes embroiled in the local strike action, as he refuses to endorse poor working conditions and lends his church for a socialist meeting. This displeases Nordenson, who also dislikes Bergman's manner of instruction of Nordenson's daughters, as Nordenson refuses to kneel with his wife and girls. In the meantime, the Bergmans take in Petrus, a troubled orphaned boy. Later, Henrik and Anna are unexpectedly summoned to Stockholm to meet Queen Victoria, who chairs a board managing Sophiahemmet Hospital and is seeking a chaplain, with the archbishop recommending Henrik. During the meeting, Victoria asks him if he believes suffering is sent by God. He replies suffering is useless and God views the world with horror, and leaves the palace fuming at having to flatter the Queen. The Bergmans decline the position, but the villagers are upset they did not hear of the offer except through rumours, and are disturbed by Henrik publicly humiliating Nordenson in church.

Upset, and expecting her second child, Anna insists on sending Petrus away, saying she did not agree to a permanent adoption and she dislikes the boy. Petrus overhears the conversation, and furious, kidnaps Dag and carries him to an icy river. The Bergmans see them and give chase, with Henrik saving Dag and slapping down Petrus, after which the boy leaves. In despair, Anna decides she can no longer live in Forsboda and takes Dag to the Åkerblom house, while Henrik at first resolves to stay in the village. He finally accepts the position in Stockholm and asks Anna to come with him, and she replies this is all she wants.

Cast

Ghita Norby.jpg
Max von Sydow 1992.jpg
Lena Endre.jpg
Ghita Nørby and Max von Sydow star as Anna's parents, the Åkerbloms, while Lena Endre appears as Frida.

Production

Development

Erik Bergman.jpg
Ingmar Bergman 1957.jpg
The history of Church of Sweden minister Erik Bergman influenced his son Ingmar, who wrote the screenplay.

Semi-retired director Ingmar Bergman conceived of the film while writing his memoirs The Magic Lantern. [3] He wrote the screenplay based on the early years of the marriage of his parents, Lutheran minister Erik Bergman and Karin Åkerblom, between 1909 and 1918, attempting to see them less as "mythical giants who dominated his childhood", [4] and more as complicated people. By ending the film before he was born, he examined their conflicts that did not have to do with him. [4]

In writing his parents' story before his birth, Ingmar found himself limited to "fragmentary notes, brief tales, isolated episodes". [4] Many of Karin's letters to Erik were lost and presumed destroyed by Karin. Ingmar's sister Margareta Bergman possessed most of their parents' papers, and some were published by 1992. Erik had written an autobiography for Margareta in 1941. One document Ingmar had was his mother's diary, though it was not a source for many events in the film. He attempted to capture his parents' characters based on his documents and his conversations with them in later years. [4]

Professor Rochelle Wright details where the film differs from history, noting that unlike Henrik and Anna, Erik and Karin in fact met as second cousins. While Karin's parents were opposed to her marrying Erik, there are not many details as to how this conflict played out in reality. The separation of Erik and Karin related not to her treatment for an illness in Switzerland, but rather to her studies for nursing in Stockholm and Gothenburg. [4]

Ingmar completed the screenplay in 1989. He respected Danish director Bille August and submitted the screenplay to him. [3] August was facing budget difficulties with the Hollywood film he was working on, and abandoned it to travel to Stockholm to meet Bergman, whom he admired. Bergman told him he had seen August's film Pelle the Conqueror seven times and that August would have complete control over the direction of The Best Intentions. [5] In a press conference in August 1989, Bergman said the film could be seen as related to The Magic Lantern and his semi-autobiographical 1982 film Fanny and Alexander . [6]

Filming

Tureholm Castle was a shooting location for the film. Tureholms slott syd 2012.jpg
Tureholm Castle was a shooting location for the film.

Bergman insisted on the casting of Pernilla Östergren as Anna, after she played Maj in Fanny and Alexander. Bille August had not met her before The Best Intentions, but later married her. Pernilla accepted the role, not knowing it had been written for her, which she said would have frightened her. [5]

Producer Ingrid Dahlberg secured the kr 67 million budget by approaching various broadcasters across Europe. [3] It was estimated to be the most expensive Scandinavian film in history. [7] [8] The Best Intentions took eight months to film, beginning in July 1990. [3] Several locations across Sweden were used, including Stockholm Film Studios, [9] Uppsala County and Tureholm Castle. [1]

Release

The film was announced at a press conference in Stockholm in December 1991. To avoid taking attention away from Bille August, Bergman did not attend. [10] The six-hour version of the film ran on Swedish television in four parts in December 1991. [4]

The film played at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1992. Distribution for the three-hour theatrical version in the United States, Japan and numerous countries in Europe was secured by July 1992. [10]

Reception

Critical reception

Pernilla August received positive reviews for her performance, as well as the Best Actress Award at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival. Pernilla August.jpg
Pernilla August received positive reviews for her performance, as well as the Best Actress Award at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival.

Derek Elley of Variety wrote the film "packs a sustained emotional wallop that lightens its three-hour span," and Pernilla August "holds the screen in a series of throat-catching sequences." [3] Janet Maslin, writing for The New York Times , said that the second boy Anna is pregnant with at the end of the film is Ingmar Bergman, "whose screenplay looks back at the social, economic and personal forces that turned his parents' early years together into a tug of war," while Bille August's direction is "more decorous and less bold." Maslin stated the film "loses momentum" with the romance story lacking significance. [11] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone panned the film as a "three-hour Swedish soap opera" that "fails to live up to its pedigree," while calling Pernilla August "wonderfully expressive" and Max von Sydow and Ghita Nørby excellent. [12] Entertainment Weekly's Owen Glieberman gave the film an A, praising it as "the most moving film I’ve seen this year," and said that Pernilla's "radiant sensuality and pride evoke an entire Bergman universe of emotionally engulfing women." [13] Kenneth Turan, writing for The Los Angeles Times , felt the film is missing Bergman's direction, but it has strength in his screenplay and an acting quality "uniformly quite high," with "special nods" to Pernilla and von Sydow. [14] People critics judged the film to be "equally memorable" to Bergman's 1973 miniseries Scenes from a Marriage , filled with "vivid, literate confrontations" that Bille August gives "naturalistic fervor". [15]

The Time Out review states The Best Intentions lacks the joy of Fanny and Alexander and the length of the film is challenging for the viewer. [16] In 2016, The Hollywood Reporter ranked the film 69th among 69 counted winners of the Palme d'Or to date, concluding "August’s rather bland direction made this a forgettable Palme." [17] The film has an 81% score on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 16 reviews. [18]

Critic Vincent Canby also identified Sunday's Children (1992), directed by Daniel Bergman and written by Ingmar, as "a continuation" of Fanny and Alexander and The Best Intentions. [19] Author Geoffrey Macnab wrote that whereas Ingmar's recollections of Erik are damning in his 1982 film Fanny and Alexander, his 1991–92 study of his father is "far more forgiving" in The Best Intentions and Sunday's Children. [20]

Accolades

The film won the Palme d'Or and Best Actress for August at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival. [21] At the 28th Guldbagge Awards, the film was nominated for six awards, winning two, for August as Best Actress and Bergman for Best Screenplay. [22]

AwardDate of ceremonyCategoryRecipient(s)ResultRef(s)
Cannes Film Festival 7–18 May 1992 Palme d'Or Bille August Won [21]
Best Actress Pernilla August Won
Guldbagge Awards 1 March 1993 Best Film Ingrid Dahlberg Nominated [22]
Best Director Bille AugustNominated
Best Screenplay Ingmar Bergman Won
Best Actor Samuel Fröler Nominated
Best Actress Pernilla AugustWon
Best Cinematography Jörgen Persson Nominated
National Society of Film Critics 3 January 1993 Best Foreign Language Film The Best Intentions3rd Place [23]
Best Actress Pernilla August3rd Place

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bille August</span> Danish film director and screenwriter

Bille AugustRD is a Danish director, screenwriter, and cinematographer of film and television. In a career spanning over four decades, he has been the recipient of numerous accolades, making him one of the most acclaimed contemporary Danish filmmakers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ingmar Bergman</span> Swedish filmmaker (1918–2007)

Ernst Ingmar Bergman was a Swedish film and theatre director and screenwriter. Widely considered one of the greatest and most influential film directors of all time, his films have been described as "profoundly personal meditations into the myriad struggles facing the psyche and the soul". Some of his most acclaimed works include The Seventh Seal (1957), Wild Strawberries (1957), Persona (1966) and Fanny and Alexander (1982), which were included in the 2012 edition of Sight & Sound's Greatest Films of All Time. He was also ranked No. 8 on the magazine's 2002 "Greatest Directors of All Time" list.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Liv Ullmann</span> Norwegian actress (born 1938)

Liv Johanne Ullmann is a Norwegian actress. Recognised as one of the greatest European actresses of all time, Ullmann is known as the muse and frequent partner of filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. She acted in many of his films, including Persona (1966), Cries and Whispers (1972), Scenes from a Marriage (1973), The Passion of Anna (1969), and Autumn Sonata (1978).

<i>Cries and Whispers</i> 1972 Swedish drama film by Ingmar Bergman

Cries and Whispers is a 1972 Swedish period drama film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman and starring Harriet Andersson, Kari Sylwan, Ingrid Thulin and Liv Ullmann. The film, set in a mansion at the end of the 19th century, is about three sisters and a servant who struggle with the terminal cancer of one of the sisters (Andersson). The servant (Sylwan) is close to her, while the other two sisters confront their emotional distance from each other.

<i>Pelle the Conqueror</i> 1987 film directed by Bille August

Pelle the Conqueror is a 1987 epic film co-written and directed by Bille August, based upon the 1910 novel of the same name by Danish writer Martin Andersen Nexø. The film tells the story of two Swedish immigrants to Denmark, a father and son, who try to build a new life for themselves. It stars Pelle Hvenegaard as the young Pelle, with Max von Sydow as his father, and also features Axel Strøbye and Astrid Villaume.

<i>Fanny and Alexander</i> 1982 Swedish drama film by Ingmar Bergman

Fanny and Alexander is a 1982 period drama film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. The plot focuses on two siblings and their large family in Uppsala, Sweden during the first decade of the twentieth century. Following the death of the children's father, their mother remarries a prominent bishop who becomes abusive towards Alexander for his vivid imagination.

<i>The Virgin Spring</i> 1960 Swedish drama film by Ingmar Bergman

The Virgin Spring is a 1960 Swedish film directed by Ingmar Bergman. Set in medieval Sweden, it is a tale about a father's merciless response to the rape and murder of his young daughter. The story was adapted by screenwriter Ulla Isaksson from a 13th-century Swedish ballad, "Töres döttrar i Wänge". Bergman researched the legend of Per Töre with an eye to an adaptation, considering an opera before deciding on a film version. Given criticism of the historical accuracy of his 1957 film The Seventh Seal, he also invited Isaksson to write the screenplay. Other influences included the 1950 Japanese film Rashomon. Max von Sydow played Töre.

<i>Saraband</i> 2003 film

Saraband is a 2003 Swedish drama film directed by Ingmar Bergman, and his final film. It was made for Swedish television, but released theatrically in a longer cut outside Sweden. Its United States theatrical release, with English subtitles, was in July 2005. The Swedish television version is 107 minutes, while theatrical releases run just under 2 hours.

<i>In the Presence of a Clown</i> 1997 Swedish film

In the Presence of a Clown is a television film by Ingmar Bergman, recorded for Swedish television in 1997 with Bergman as a director. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section of the 1998 Cannes Film Festival. It tells the story of a professor named Carl, who has been found guilty of attempted murder and sentenced to treatment in a mental ward. In the hospital he befriends a man named Osvald, and they attempt to make and promote a film.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pernilla August</span> Swedish actress, director and screenwriter

Pernilla August is a Swedish actress, director and screenwriter. Being one of Sweden's leading actresses and a longtime collaborator with director Ingmar Bergman, she won the Best Actress Award at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival for her role in his The Best Intentions. She is best known internationally for portraying Shmi Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.

<i>The Touch</i> (1971 film) 1971 film

The Touch is a 1971 romantic drama film directed by Ingmar Bergman and starring Max von Sydow, Bibi Andersson, Elliott Gould, and Sheila Reid. The film tells the story of an affair between a married woman and an impetuous foreigner. It contains references to the Virgin Mary and the Holocaust.

<i>Through a Glass Darkly</i> (film) 1961 film

Through a Glass Darkly is a 1961 Swedish drama film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, and starring Harriet Andersson, Gunnar Björnstrand, Max von Sydow and Lars Passgård. The film tells the story of a schizophrenic young woman (Andersson) vacationing on a remote island with her husband, novelist father (Björnstrand), and frustrated younger brother (Passgård).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bibi Andersson</span> Swedish actress (1935–2019)

Berit Elisabet Andersson, known professionally as Bibi Andersson, was a Swedish actress who was best known for her frequent collaborations with filmmaker Ingmar Bergman.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gunn Wållgren</span> Swedish actress

Gunn Wållgren (born Gunnel Margaret Haraldsdotter Wållgren; ; was a Swedish stage and film actress. She is best remembered for her role in Ingmar Bergman's film Fanny and Alexander.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anita Björk</span> Swedish actress

Anita Björk was a Swedish actress.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Erik Bergman (Lutheran minister)</span> Swedish parish minister

Erik Henrik Fredrik Bergman was a Swedish parish minister of the Lutheran Church and the father of diplomat Dag Bergman, novelist Margareta Bergman, and film director Ingmar Bergman.

<i>Sundays Children</i> 1992 film

Sunday's Children is a 1992 Swedish drama film directed by Daniel Bergman and written by Ingmar Bergman. At the 28th Guldbagge Awards the film won the award for Best Cinematography and Thommy Berggren was nominated for Best Actor.

<i>Private Confessions</i> 1996 film

Private Confessions is a 1996 Swedish drama film directed by Liv Ullmann and written by Ingmar Bergman. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Margareta Bergman</span> Swedish novelist

Karin Ann Margareta Bergman was a Swedish novelist. She had an unhappy childhood in a strict Lutheran family, something depicted in her brother Ingmar Bergman's semi-autobiographical film Fanny och Alexander.

Dag Erik Bergman was a Swedish diplomat.

References

  1. 1 2 Steene 2005, p. 342.
  2. "The Best Intentions". British Board of Film Classification . Retrieved 30 March 2018.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Elley, Derek (15 May 1992). "Review: 'The Best Intentions'". Variety . Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Wright 2011.
  5. 1 2 Blair, Iain (9 August 1992). "With 'Best Intentions'". The Chicago Tribune . Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  6. Steene 2005, p. 343.
  7. Christy, Desmond (17 January 1992). "Gazzetta: Love in the Cold". The Guardian . p. 27.
  8. Helmy, Mike (22 May 1992). "The Sins of the Fathers". The Independent . p. 19.
  9. "The Best Intentions". ingmarbergman.se. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  10. 1 2 Gritten, David (12 July 1992). "A Light on August : When Ingmar Bergman picked him to make 'The Best Intentions,' Bille August got more than a man could bargain for—an award-winning film, a new wife and the mantle of Great Scandinavian Director". The Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  11. Maslin, Janet (10 July 1992). "Bergman's Family Story of Life Before Ingmar". The New York Times . Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  12. Travers, Peter (10 July 1992). "The Best Intentions". Rolling Stone . Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  13. Glieberman, Owen (24 July 1992). "The Best Intentions". Entertainment Weekly . Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  14. Turan, Kenneth (14 August 1992). "MOVIE REVIEW : 'Intentions' Is Bergman Minus Tears". The Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  15. Kaufman, Joanne; Novak, Ralph; Rozen, Leah (13 July 1992). "Picks and Pans Review: The Best Intentions". People . Vol. 38, no. 2. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  16. CM. "The Best Intentions". Time Out . Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  17. THR Staff (10 May 2016). "Cannes: All the Palme d'Or Winners, Ranked". The Hollywood Reporter . Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  18. "THE BEST INTENTIONS (1992)". Rotten Tomatoes . Retrieved 30 March 2018.
  19. Canby, Vincent (3 April 1993). "Review/Film Festival; A Bergman Memoir By Son and Father". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 15 December 2017. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  20. Macnab 2009, p. 210.
  21. 1 2 "Festival de Cannes: DEN GODA VILJAN". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  22. 1 2 "Den goda viljan (1992)". Swedish Film Institute. 22 March 2014.
  23. Cohn, Lawrence (4 January 1993). "NSFC honors Clint Thompson". Variety . p. 1.

Bibliography