Den Goda Viljan, or the Best Intentions, based on the screenplay by Ingmar Bergman about his parents’ first decade of knowing each other and living together, is one of my all-time favorite films. No, it’s not a BERGMAN, but you can’t escape his screenplay (the dialogs for the roles of Liv Ullmann and Samuel Frohler are superb) and it’s really nice to see a different treqtment for his writing. The films that Liv Ullman has directed are closely wedded and loyal to Bergman himself. Bille August did a great job and while he earned a Palme d’Or for the film, this is not enough. This film needs more recognition.
Also see (if you have not already)
Pelle the Conqueror
Smilla’s Sense of Snow and
I agree! This is one of my all-time favorites, too. To my taste (which isn’t everyone’s), everything came together in a pitch perfect way — Bergman’s words, Bille August’s more novelistic directing style (he’s almost self-abnegating, but I like that), the perfect cast, the spare music (repetitive and almost hypnotic — but again, in a way that I like here).
Personally, I’ve felt less taken with the Bergman screenplays directed by Liv Ullmann. There’s something about Bille August’s direction that resonates with me, and, in combination with Bergman and these specific actors, it was magical.
By the way, it was Pernilla August in the role of Anna, and she was remarkable. Apparently, Bergman’s only request to August was that he cast her as his mother.
Yes, you’re right, Bergman asked Pernilla to play his mother because he thought she could pull it off better than anyone else. And she more than gave it her best. I misspoke above because about two months ago, I watched about 25 Bergman films pretty much back to back and Liv Ullmann was on my mind.
Bergman’s movies are certainly auteur quality in their style, content, mood, etc. etc., but he was right not to direct this one himself. I agree with your comment about self-abnegating—that understatement of self is so powerful, it made the story more than real. August imbued it with a lyricism that chez Bergman might have been represented in harsher and stern ways, à la Bergman, of course.
Still the Bergman content is pretty unparalleled in the way it leaves me exhausted and still wanting more. I can understand, I think, some of the reasons why he felt so at home on his Faro island, the place that allowed him the reflection and solitude necessary for such thought to be put to paper, and then to film.
By the way, I did like the way Ullmann directed Faithless., the one about the imaginary woman telling her tale of adultery to a storyteller.
To come back to August, I am glad that Bergman, who we know from all the interviews he gave was very controlling and often hard to work with, respected August’s artistic rights when he gave over the screenplay for the Best Intentions. I can imagine that this would have resulted in yet another Bergman film. It’s great to see this material take on a whole other persona.