The Infuriating Release I Finally Broke Down and Bought: The Best Intentions

I first figured out that Film Movement would be releasing The Best Intentions in 2016 when I started watching the complete, subtitled miniseries on Youtube in 2015, and the episodes were taken down by their copyright claim just as I was about to start part 2.  Slightly annoying in the moment, but who cares?  We were finally going to get a US release of one of Ingmar Bergman's most underrated dramas and the first English-friendly version of the complete mini-series anywhere in the world!  Yeah... you dedicated Bergman fans out there can already see where I'm going with this.
Film Movement didn't release the mini-series; they just put out the abridged film version.  For anyone who's not too familiar with 1991's Best Intentions, it's just like Scenes From a Marriage and Fanny & Alexander in that it was a fairly epic mini-series production made for Swedish television, that wound up getting heavily cut down into a movie-length version for international distribution.  So we're not talking about something like Scream losing a few seconds from its unrated director's cut here; the film version is about half the length (180 mins) of the complete, original director's cut (323 mins).  Really, these theatrical versions might still be of some interest to historians, and it's nice when labels bother to include them alongside the full versions.  But we're talking about some serious watering down here, done only to accommodate theatrical screening convenience that's no longer an issue with home video.  We should be able to completely forget about these bastardizations in today's world just like we shouldn't be forced to contend with those TV editions of Scarface where they changed lines like, "where'd you get that beauty scar, tough guy? Eatin' pussy?" to "where'd you get that beauty scar, tough guy? Eatin' pineapple?"  Novelty value?  Sure, but a completely obsolete way to sincerely watch the movie.
Now I'm not mad at Film Movement for taking down that Youtube edition, per se.  I'm certain that was an unlicensed upload, and when you play those pirate games, that's part of what you've signed up for.  And at the end of the day, I don't want a digital bootleg; I want an authorized disc.  I've spent literal decades trying desperately to find a way to pay honest money to obtain a copy.  But by not following that take-down with a release the complete series, they're now on the side of actively preventing us access to the complete work.  And it's not like the full version with perfectly adequate subtitles wasn't available for them to release; it was right there in front of all of us!
So what made me break down and buy this release anyway?  Well, said infuriating aspect aside, it's actually the world's first and only HD release of any version of Best Intentions, taken from an attractive 2k restoration.  There have been other DVDs before this - most visibly the 2010 UK disc from Park Circus and a Spanish DVD from Cameo which actually includes both cuts(!) but isn't English friendly - however none that can compete with this release.  And after waiting a while, and seeing that no, The Best Intentions wasn't going to be featured in Criterion's massive Ingmar Bergman's Cinema boxed set, it started to feel like this is all we're ever going to get, and abridged version still trumps no version at all.
Because it is a great film, even in its shorter cut.  Bergman wrote the screenplay based on his parents' rough marriage.  And while it's actually directed by Billie August, not Bergman himself, the combination of Bergman's writing and personal connection to the story successfully blends it in with his other works.  Right from the chilling first scene, where Samuel Froler as Bergman's father refuses to go home and make amends with his grandfather on his deathbed, I was locked into my seat.  Yes, admittedly, it does feel like many scenes play a little flatter than Bergman might've shot them with his unique creative verve.  But the drama, helped immeasurably by many of Bergman's core players including Pernilla August (In the Presence Of a Clown, Private Confessions, etc), Anita Bjork (Waiting Women, Madame de Sade, The Image Makers, etc) and Max von Sydow (no credits needed) feels as at home in the master's oeuvre as any of his other classics.
2016 Film Movement DVD top; 2016 Film Movement BD bottom.
And it was hard to resist finally seeing this in HD.  Film Movement also released a concurrent DVD version, which I managed to borrow a copy of just for comparison's sake, which means we're naturally looking at the same transfer, just one in standard definition and one in high.  The image is clean, colors are bright and attractive, and the aspect ratio... well, it went from previous releases' 1.85:1 to 1.78:1, but alright, close enough.  Grain is, uh... sporadic to absent.  It's patchy but okayish in the first set of shots, but really smoothed away in the second.  This is a dual-layered disc with a healthy of its 37.3 of its 42GB dedicated to the film itself, and the BD is certainly sharper with stronger detail than the DVD, so I'm guessing this is less of an encoding issue and more the result of digital tampering?  I don't know; I'm sure it still leaves the older DVDs in the dust, but I sure wouldn't put this release on my showroom floor.

We get the original Swedish stereo mix in... sigh... lossy AC3 on both the DVD and blu-ray.  Optional English and French subtitles are included.
2016 Film Movement BD top; 2018 Criterion BD bottom.
Extras are light but curious.  Even though they're concurrent editions from the same company, the DVD and Blu-ray editions differ.  Both discs give us the trailer, plus some bonus trailers and a Film Movement commercial, plus a nice 12-page booklet with notes by Bergman scholar Peter Cowie.  But only the blu-ray also includes an additional Bergman short film, Karin's Face.  It's a brief documentary about his mother, comprised essentially of still photographs.  So considering its subject matter, it makes complete sense why it was packaged with this film.  Of course it doesn't come with the dramatic heft or powerful emotion of his usual work, and its inclusion was a nice little treat for any Bergman fan, as it had previously only been available as an extra on a UK edition of Seventh Seal.  As of 2018, though, it's now also a part of Criterion's boxed set, so it's a little less exclusive.  A quick comparison shows that it seems to be the same transfer, restored from 35mm film elements.
So yeah, now I own this thing.  I couldn't resist and I'm not sure I regret the purchase.  But I'm still here in the exact same position I've been in for all the years before I got it: desperately hoping someone like Criterion or Eureka finally gives The Best Intentions the proper, complete release it deserves.  Honestly, it feels like I bought a DVD because I couldn't hold out for a blu-ray any longer.  The only difference is now I feel less hopeful of there ever being a decent blu option, because Film Movement's got the title licensed here for who knows how many years, meaning labels like Criterion can't touch it.  Oh, and it's region free.  I sure hope that doesn't mean their license extends anywhere overseas, too.  Because they're not gonna let us watch it online anytime soon.

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