Danish director Bille August's eight production, an extensive mini-series from 1991 based on masterful Swedish director Ingmar Bergman's semi-autobiographical novel-screenplay, was considerably edited and released as a theatrical feature film which was awarded with Best Actress - Pernilla August and the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1992. This memorable co-production between nine countries tells the story of Henrik Bergman who has been brought up under poor living conditions with his mother and is educating himself to become a priest. The year is 1909, there is a general strike in Sweden and the rather lonely soul Henrik has some passionate moments away from his theology studies with a local waitress named Frida, but the day he is invited to his friend Ernst for a family dinner, he meets and acquaints Ernst's sister Anna Åkerblom whom he falls in love with. Suddenly the possibility of happiness reveals itself to Henrik, but the times are rough and when love occurs between a young man from a lower social class and a well raised young woman from the middle-class, prejudices comes to light.
"The Best Intentions" was shot on different locations in Sweden, amongst others Uppsala where Ingmar Bergman was born and raised, and made eight years after Ingmar Bergman's Academy Award-winning and monumental family drama "Fanny and Alexander" (1982) which he stated would be his last production. It is a long film, but in view of the actors vital presence, the comprehensive and engaging screenplay, the instrumental score's soulful and atmospheric power which is emphasized by the magnificent cinematography, it holds the viewers enchanted until the final scene. Assisted by skillful costume designer Ann Mari Antilla, production designer Anna Asp and cinematographer Jörgen Persson, Bille August manages to create very realistic depictions of time and milieu. The acting by all the participants is of world-class, but Pernilla August's wholehearted interpretation of the self-sacrificing nurse Anna where she goes through a wide range of emotions, Samuel Fröler's internal and substantial interpretation of the priest candidate Henrik and the chemistry these two Swedish actors radiates, makes this a profound experience. Veteran Danish actress Ghita Nørby and Swedish actor Max Von Sydow is remarkable in their significant supporting roles as Anna Åkerblom's overprotective parents.
Bille August's character-driven and dialog-driven period piece from the early 1990s which depicts the challenging relationship between Henrik Bergman and Anna Åkerblom in the early 19th century in Sweden, is an in-depth study of character which spans over nine years about a man who in his dedicated desire to be devoted to his God, experiences personal dilemmas when he realizes that his heart is lead by the love he feels for a woman. This quietly paced and detailed psychological drama develops through an efficient straightforward narrative and focuses on themes such as family relations, love, class distinction, coming-of-age, marriage and faith. Ingmar Bergman's compassionate writing and Bille August's subtle directing gives this universal story a multilateral and insightful image of the highlights and the hardships of love. It also manages to clarify how differences in opinion pulls people away from each other at the same time as it brings them closer. This captivating, romantic and thoughtful portrayal of the love between Ingmar Bergman's parents and his own genesis is a an epic, empathic, melancholic, compassionate and lyrical masterpiece that slides through the soul as an esoteric hymn.
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