At 70 minutes, Gregory Ratoff’s Intermezzo: A Love Story (1939) just may be the quickest exposition of a love spanning many years ever attempted on celluloid. The movie is the brilliant adaptation of a Swedish film by the same name, also starring Ingrid Bergman. Enamored by her on screen presence in the original, producer David O. Selznick wooed the luminous Swed to Hollywood where some surviving Technicolor screen tests of Bergman absolutely solidify the fact that Selznick had an eye for mining feminine beauty from the foreign market. And Bergman was an 'import' unlike any other that had come, or been brought, to Hollywood. She could act and speak English. She required no build up to prove these talents. They had already been proven elsewhere. Although Selznick may have had other ambitions for Bergman's career - especially the project that should mark her American debut - he was overwhelmed in pre-production on Gone With The Wind.
Hence, Selznick would do the Sweds one better by making a remake better than their original. As in the Swedish version, Bergman plays Anita Hoffman, a gifted piano teacher who comes to the attentions of violin virtuoso, Holger Brandt (Leslie Howard). Howard was a matinee idol in his native Britain who had broken through to the American market thanks to Pygmalion (1938). Though Selznick desperately wanted him for Gone With The Wind, Howard would only agree to do the part of Ashley Wilkes after Selznick gave him co-producer screen credit on Intermezzo.
George O'Neill's screenplay remains remarkably faithful to the original Swedish film. Holger Brandt’s world tours keep him away from his dutiful wife, Margit (Edna Best) and their children, Eric (Douglas Scott) and Ann Marie (Ann Todd). The realization for Holger - that his art is eclipsing his life - is mirrored in Anita's intense desire to become a great concert pianist. Recognizing a kindred spirit in Anita, Holger reasons that to fall in love with her would mean he would never have to sacrifice either his career or his private life. They would be as one. However, a bittersweet tryst on the Riviera reforms these plans for an illicit future together, though not before fate nearly destroys Holger’s home life forever.
Intermezzo is peerless entertainment. The stars have aligned - literally - on this outing. Bergman and Howard exude an intensity through their performances that easily equates to one of the most blisteringly real passions ever put on film. Given Selznick’s overriding commitment on GWTW - the amount of time and money he chose to lavish on what he could only have perceived as a minor programmer - results in a gorgeous, timeless love story. Gregg Toland and Harry Stradling's cinematography yield a dreamy landscape perfectly at odds with the all too human tragedy that is at the heart of the love story. The result: Intermezzo becomes a viscerally moving and startlingly poignant movie experience. Bring Kleenex.
MGM’s DVD is rather impressive. The B&W picture exhibits a very nicely balanced gray scale with smooth, solid blacks and very clean whites. Age related artifacts are present throughout but do not distract. Some minor edge enhancement crops up but pixelization is kept to a minimum. Overall the picture will surely not disappoint. The audio is mono but more than adequate for a film of this vintage. There are no extras.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)