Sunday, 2 October 2011

Intermezzo: A Love Story (1939)

Along with a few other videos I found in my garage last week, I found Intermezzo: A Love Story (1939). I'd heard lots about this film while reading biographies of Ingrid Bergman and the like so I thought I should certainly give it a go! And at only 70 minutes, what could be the harm? Just to clear up any possible confusion, apparently this film has been renamed Escape To Happiness (?). This is a review of that, but I like the original title :-)

Intermezzo: A Love Story (1939) Directed By Gregory Ratoff

To clarify... The studio artist who made this poster had evidently only seen Ingrid Bergman in Black and White before, because what colour is that hair?!?!?!



Accomplished concert violinist, Holger Brandt is going home to his wife and two children after a long world tour. Ecstatic to see him, they are desperate to start life again as normal with the whole family. Just like anybody else. But it is obvious that when he does get back, it's as if his family don't know him well and vice versa. Their dog growls at him and his eldest child (his son) has a distant kind of relationship with him. Even when he asks his wife if he can go away and have a second honeymoon (although expressed quite selfishly) she says no and goes on to tell her that her duties belong with home and keeping it in order.

This applies to everyone except his 6 year old daughter Ann Marie. She and her father become very close and bond over music. She accompanies him with her basic piano she is learning from her new piano teacher, Anita Hoffman.

Anita is studying to be a concert pianist with Thomas Stenborg and teaches the piano in her spare time. Ann Marie asks her parents if it is ok to invite Anita to her birthday party and her parents say yes. At the birthday party, Holger and Ann Marie do a duet on piano and violin of a song called "Intermezzo". Once they have finished, Thomas Stenborg - who has been touring with Holger - calls Anita up to play for everyone. When he starts to listen, Holger is enraptured by her playing and starts to accompany her on the violin. They meet again at a concert and they walk to get "a glass of wine" afterwards when it suddenly occurs to Holger that his problems finding an accompanist are over! Anita can be his accompanist! Anita refuses but that night the two realise that they are in love with each other.

They start an affair and naturally Holger's wife Margit finds out and asks Holger for a divorce, just after Anita has said to Holger that she can't live with the guilt any more and leaves him to go to Denmark "to visit relatives".

Holger catches her at the train station and tells her that he is a free man. She says "How could you do that to them..." but never the less the run off together and she accompanies him at his concerts.

Then while on holiday together, she gets a letter telling her that she has been accepted for a scholarship in Paris but feels obligated to stay with Holger.

A visit from Thomas and the ever-growing guilt she feels for breaking up a marriage, makes her leave Holger in search of her own career. He decides to be alone for a while and then go back home, with disastrous results...

The Verdict:

I have to admit that I was disappointed with this film over all. It felt really contrived to me. I knew everything that was going to happen. And I found it good that it was only 70 minutes long because although I enjoyed it up to a point, the painful nastiness of the main plot made it a very awkward watch towards the end.

Right. I'll say it now and get it off my chest. I don't like Leslie Howard!!! I find him a bit irritating and one dimensional. I wanted to like him, and convinced myself that I did but then I thought about all the performances I've seen from him and realised I didn't like any of them. The main character of this film  really got to me as a "I really want to kill this character off. He's seriously on my nerves.... GAH GET OFF THE SCREEN!" character. By the by, is it just me, or do other people think this kind of thing whilst watching films??? Holger comes across as a nasty, selfish, one dimensional, stereotypical idiot when he could have been portrayed with more feeling even though his motives are genuinely selfish.

There is one big exception to this rule of Intermezzo, Ingrid Bergman. I was extremely intrigued to find out what her first venture into American cinema would be like and I was so not disappointed! Even though her accent was a bit more Swedish, her Anita was just as word perfect a performance as any of her other ones. Had she not been so sincere and genuine, the whole film would have fallen to pieces. It would have turned into, "This selfish idiot of a man is leaving his wife and two lovely children for a beautiful piano teacher. The end. OH MY GOD THIS IS BEYOND CRUEL!!!" But because Ingrid Bergman is so nice (for lack of a better word) and she shows her guilt and unsure naivety in the way she does, you feel for her instead of disapproving of her.

Just as a last note, Gregory Ratoff directed this?!?!?!?! He is actually the completely fantastic Russian producer in All About Eve! Great! He can direct super well too and while we were watching it my mum said, "Who directed this?", so I said "Gregory Ratoff. The awesome guy in All About Eve who produces the play." And she just went "Oh my goodness! REALY? HE CAN DIRECT TOO?!?!" And she is quite right.

Oh yeah! And the soundtrack and music is awesomesauce too :-D



Rianna said...

I saw this movie this past summer and I agree, it's disappointing, but Ingrid is lovely (then again, she is in everything!). And I agree with you about Leslie Howard, too!! He frustrates me and I didn't even like him as Ashley in Gone With the Wind. I just... I don't know, get annoyed by him. :)

Caftan Woman said...

Pleased to read your take on this well-remembered romance. Ingrid certainly made an impact on a new audience.

I think you might find this post from Whistling Gypsy for the 1939 blogathon of interest:

Bette said...

@Caftan Woman, thanks for the link!
@Rianna, YAY!!! I thought I was alone on Leslie Howard! I agree, Ingrid Bergman is lovely in everything, one of my favourites (apart from my very favourite, Notorious) of hers is Indiscreet.


StanwyckFan said...

Hello! Great review! :) I'm going to have to say though that, at the moment, I very much like Leslie Howard; but, to be fair, I need to see more of his movies.


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