INTERMEZZO (Gustaf Molander, 1936)

Gösta Ekman is wonderful as concert violinist Holger Brandt, who has an affair with his child’s piano instructor, Anita Hoffman. A point of interest of Gustaf Molander’s moving melodrama Intermezzo, from Sweden, is the contrast between Ekman’s old-style, somewhat grand but extraordinarily disciplined acting and 21-year-old Ingrid Bergman’s moodier, less contained acting, to which she brings naturalism and youthful charm. This contrast suits the crux of the Brandt-Hoffman couple’s dilemma: Is there a way to enjoin the past, meaning Brandt, to Hoffman’s future?
     As the film opens, Holger is returning home after a two-year concert tour. Thus far, music has been his only mistress. “I’m happy,” his wife, Margit, tells him, “so long as you come home to us.” But she worries, she adds, that he will grow “distant.” Anita introduces the possibility of a perfect partner. Holger tells Anita, who wants to break off the affair: “My love for you is my whole life. You can’t ask me to stop living.” Margit, he rationalizes, has their two children to fill her life. But Holger’s selfishness infects his heretofore unselfish wife, who turns off the radio so daughter Ann-Marie (a curious amalgamation of Margit’s and Anita’s names) cannot hear her father’s last performance of the season with Anita as his accompanist. Margit explains to Ann-Marie: “He isn’t playing for us anymore”—although, of course, he never was.
     “He longs for home,” Anita senses. She leaves him; feeling he has abdicated any right to happiness, Holger signs Margit’s divorce papers. When he finally does go home, the happy sight of him propels Ann-Marie into the street and she is struck by a car.
     Molander’s film is twenty times better than the glossy Hollywood remake (Gregory Ratoff, 1939) that made Bergman, who recreated her role, an international star.

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