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5 - Intermezzo (1939)

Ingrid Bergman's starstruck student pianist, Anita Hoffman, falls in love with Leslie Howard's returning virtuoso violinist, Holger Brandt in rural Sweden. That she is also piano teacher to Brandt's young daughter, and friend to his wife, Margit (Edna Best) only serves to complicate matters.

Soon, Brandt has broken with his family, launching into a whirlwind romance with Anita as they tour the concert halls of the world, but the spectre of the hearts that they have broken in their wake is never far away.

Bergman is luminous in her first American film, having starred in the Swedish original only three years earlier. It's sometimes stagey, and the dialogue can be a little stilted, especially from Howard, but it's an intensely romantic, deeply affecting film that trusts its viewer enough to see the subtext for themselves. We do not see the conversation between Howard and 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 realise 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, and Bergman's final scene, her fate uncertain, is haunting.

Magic Moment: "Courage, my friend, courage"

Go to Number 4

Intermezzo [DVD] [1939]
Starring Leslie Howard, Ingrid Bergman, Edna Best, John Halliday, Marlene Dietrich