There is nothing extraordinary about Henrik and Anna, the central couple of THE BEST INTENTIONS, except for the fact that they are the fictionalized parents of the great Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. Nevertheless, as remembered by the film's screenwriter, Bergman himself, and
visualized by the director, fellow Scandinavian Bille August, they become profoundly moving examples of the power of human passion.
Henrik Bergman (Samuel Froler) is invited to dine with the grand, bourgeois Akerblom family by his seminary school-friend Ernst (Bjorn Kjellman). He falls in love instantly with Ernst's disarming, headstrong sister, Anna (Pernilla August). She soon visits the men at school and professes her
attraction to Henrik. Disapproving Mrs. Akerblom (Ghita Norby) hears of their meeting and invites Henrik to the family summer house. While the others are out on a wagon ride, Mrs. Akerblom threatens to reveal to Anna that Henrik is already engaged to a devoted, voluptuous waitress, Frida (Lena
Endre), if he doesn't dissociate himself from her daughter. Henrik leaves, and Mrs. Akerblom tells Anna about Frida.
The following winter, Frida finds Anna and begs her to take Henrik back, since he is losing his mind without her. Before she can contact him, however, Anna succumbs to tuberculosis and is sent to a sanatorium in Switzerland. She writes Henrik professing her continuing devotion, but her parents
intercept the letter and Mrs. Akerblom burns it. After Anna recovers, her mother takes her on a trip to Italy to further postpone any contact with Henrik. While traveling they receive word that Mr. Akerblom has died. Stricken by grief and guilt, Mrs. Akerblom confesses to Anna what she did with
the letter. Back in Sweden, Anna is reunited with Henrik and the two get engaged. They make a trip north to visit Henrik's mother and his new village parish. His mother, a simple woman, silently prays that God will stop their marriage.
Henrik and Anna arrive in the austere village of Forsboda during a factory workers' demonstration. They visit the small, sparse chapel and have a vicious fight about the upcoming wedding--they had planned a large celebration but now Henrik wants to be married in the village. Eventually the two are
married in the sumptuous style Anna had wanted, but they skip their honeymoon and move directly to bleak Forsboda, where they are quickly accepted into village life; while Anna wins the appreciation of the village women and beautifies their home, Henrik's congregation grows. He allows the factory
workers to hold a socialist meeting in the chapel, but is confronted by the sour industrialist, Nordenson (Lennart Hjulstrom). Anna gives birth to a little boy, Dag, and seems to bloom in motherhood. She and Henrik also take in an abused boy, Petrus (Elias Ringkvist).
Because of his good work in Forsboda, Henrik is asked by Queen Sophia to become the chaplain at a hospital in Stockholm. Dedicated to the village, Henrik refuses the offer, infuriating Anna. In the meantime, Nordenson has pulled his daughters out of confirmation class and turned the town against
the Bergmans. They begin to discuss moving to Stockholm. Petrus overhears them, projects his terror onto little Dag, and tries to drown him. Anna, who has had all she can take, goes back to live with her family, leaving Henrik to a bitter, monk-like existence. After a harsh winter alone, Henrik
makes his way to the Akerblom's home, and he and Anna decide to move to Stockholm.
A deeply satisfying film, THE BEST INTENTIONS, honored with the prestigious Palm d'Or at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, uses its considerable length to examine the early relationship of Bergman's parents with uncompromising thoroughness. Nothing is rushed, not the initial delight of Henrik and
Anna's union, nor their first agonizing separation, nor their explosive yet dependent marriage. The audience is pulled into their relationship by the pace as well as Bergman's perfect, translucent dialogue. The relationship reflects the film's backdrop of class strife, but never does that become
the film's central issue. It is a reality which coexists with the smaller world of their marriage. And Henrik's difficulties with the Akerbloms may be an example of class conflict, but they are not a parable for Marxist theory.
Similarly dedicated to truth is the development of characters: neither Anna nor Henrik is romanticized. With to-the-bone performances, Pernilla August and Samuel Froler expose Henrik and Anna as alternately violent, pathetic and heroically loving. Max von Sydow is matchless as Anna's adoring
father. Beautifully shot in shades of pearl and pale yellow and green, THE BEST INTENTIONS becomes a fully visceral film. One feels the chill of snow, first sunlight of spring, as well as the sweetness and awful vulnerability of Henrik and Anna's impossible love. (Adult situations.)
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: NR
- Review: There is nothing extraordinary about Henrik and Anna, the central couple of THE BEST INTENTIONS, except for the fact that they are the fictionalized parents of the great Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. Nevertheless, as remembered by the film's screenwrit… (more)