cover image The Best Intentions

The Best Intentions

Ingmar Bergman. Arcade Publishing, $22.95 (298pp) ISBN 978-1-55970-207-2

Written in the form of a screenplay with expanded stage directions, this openly personal first novel meditates on the youth of the noted Swedish director's parents, their courtship and the early years of their marriage. (It was the basis for a 1992 film directed by Billie August.) The tale begins in 1909, when impoverished divinity student Henrik Bergman (Ingmar's father) refuses a request to visit the bedside of his dying grandmother because her husband had disowned his father. The issues raised in this scene--money, class, forgiveness, personal responsibility--turn out to be central in Henrik's later courtship of Anna Akerblom, daughter of a middle-class couple. The drama has two acts: in the first, Anna's mother, with the best intentions, tries but fails to keep the lovers apart; in the second, Henrik, who condemned his grandmother for never standing up to her husband, must deal with a wife who constantly stands up to him. In a narrative that has the feel of an expansive Ibsen play, Bergman's presence is pervasive without being intrusive; he sets the scene, compares his real parents to the characters he has created, then lets the dialogue tell the story. A sad, honest, rewarding book. ( May )