Top positive review
8 people found this helpful
Understated and beautiful
on 30 May 2013
I must say that when I first saw Intermezzo, I was taken mostly by it's simple elegance. It's not drenched in glamour, but grounded in simplicity. The story is of a famous violinist, Leslie Howard, returning to his family as a world tour ends. There, he tries to take up with his life once more, but finds himself falling in love with his young daughter's piano teacher, here played by a luminous Ingrid Bergman.
It's clear to see why the world fell in love with Ingrid Bergman in this, her English speaking debut. She is positively radiant in every frame in which she appears. I've also seen the Swedish original, and it's clear that her reputation as one of the world's greatest beauties is well deserved. The 1936 Swedish original is a slightly different film. In that version, the acting is less stagey, the dialogue more naturalistic and daring. In this version, it does seem rather scripted, especially when it comes to Howard's dialogue. Some of the lines he delivers are embarrassingly trite, but this actually adds to the charm in a nostalgic way.
The reason I adore this film is for its trust in the viewer, and for its understatement. Many films of the period often relied on heavy exposition to convey a character's feelings, and while there are some very florid declarations here, the subtext does most of the work. We don't see the conversation between Howard and Edna Best that confirms her worst fears, we only see its effect. When Bergman describes the pair as "two guilty people", it's with an air of weary resignation as we realize that this love is not in the least bit glamorous. The scene towards the end in which she tells him to enjoy his picnic trip is a masterclass in how to hide a breaking heart.
It is these touches that bring these characters to life in an extraordinary way. I must confess that I've seen it around twenty times now over the years and it always affects me deeply, perhaps more so now that I myself am a father and husband. However, I am also haunted by Bergman's final scene, and her uncertain future. I've always wondered what became of Anita Hoffman, and hope that she found happiness. She was a good soul. It's a rare film that causes me to care about a fictional character so much.