Picks and Pans Review: The Best Intentions

updated 07/13/1992 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/13/1992 01:00AM

Samuel Fröler, Pernilla August

Ingmar Bergman, who hasn't directed a theatrical film since 1982's Fanny and Alexander, wrote this dramatized story of his parents' lives. And there is poetic justice in it: Bergman, whose 1973 Scenes from a Marriage is the definitive movie about a deteriorating relationship, has now provided the base for an equally memorable film—directed by Bille (Pelle the Conqueror) August—about a romance that endures even when it doesn't thrive.

Fröler, a Swedish TV star, plays Bergman's father, a theology student in Uppsala whose poverty-stricken childhood defines his courtship with the daughter of a patrician family (Pernilla August, wife of the director). The couple have to overcome not only the normal obstacles to romance but class snobbery and a general strike that complicates their lives once Fröler becomes a minister in a small Swedish factory town.

Throughout, Bergman sets up a series of vivid, literate confrontations involving Fröler, August and other articulated characters. Director August stages these tense, intimate, emotional wrestling matches with naturalistic fervor, and the actors, including Max von Sydow as August's world-weary father, are uniformly marvelous.

The film ends with August pregnant with the baby who would be Ingmar, so he never has to try to characterize himself. Otherwise, though, Bergman displays his enduring ability to filter out transitory phenomena and concentrate on the immediate, profound events that change people's lives. (Unrated) (In Swedish with subtitles)

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