Directed by: Bille August
Written by: Ingmar Bergman
Watched on: FilmStruck, part of the Palm D’or winners series
Summary: HENRIK and ANNA are from two separate class positions. Anna is a wealthy girl, and Henrik is studying to be a pastor and has seen much misery in his life. He is currently engaged to a woman, but it does not seem that he loves her as much as he should. He promises her that they will get married, but even she does not seem to believe this anymore. Henrik is friends with Anna’s brother, Ernst, and he comes to visit them at their home. There is a spark between Henrik and Anna. They enter into a relationship. Anna, however, is unaware that Henrik has another person in his life. This is until Anna declares that Henrik and her are engaged. Henrik has to go quickly, and that is when Anna knows that there is someone else in his life.
Henrik and Anna reconcile, and all seems to be well. However, Anna’s mother is wholly disapproving of the relationship. She believes it is a match not to be made. Instead of petty trifles however, one reason that Anna’s mother does not believe that Henrik and Anna are a good match for one another is that Henrik is still living with and engaged to a woman. Anna does not know this. Henrik is sent away by her mother, and Anna does not wish to see him either.
However, after Frida (Henrik’s other woman) asks Anna to take him back, she eventually does. They enter into a whirlwind relationship and do get married, after having a few squabbles about how and where. They move up north, and Henrik takes on a position as a pastor of a small chapel. All is well until it is not.
There is more to the story/summary, but I would rather just say my response to the movie now.
It can be found on FilmStruck or purchased on iTunes or other services.
First off, it’s wonderful that Ingmar Bergman wrote this story about his parent’s courtship. This film won the award for Cannes’ Palm D’or, and one reason is probably because when you write things that you know, they ring with more truth.
I chose the picture of the father from the film because I enjoyed him the most as a character. He was caring for his daughter, and when he passed away, his wife and Anna were both very distraught. It is actually one of my favorite scenes when the mother is having racking sobs over the loss of her husband. Up until then, she’s been more reserved with her emotions towards others. There are parts where it is very easy to feel for her as a person. She reaches out to Anna in her own way, but Anna is usually distant from her. Understandably so in parts.
But- even though I appreciate the existence of this movie and the color palette of it, I did not really like it.
This story would have resonated with me more that there not been that element of cheating. It resulted in me being more interested in Frida’s aftermath story. How she was to deal with the loss of someone she cared about, was engaged to. How she could face the person he cheated with and pass him off. Her monologue was great and that too rang very true. So, yeah, for most of the film, I cared about Frida, and she was not even on the screen for that much time.
I did not empathize with Henrik. He was a jerk, really. He got to act however he pleased and still managed to win in various instances throughout the film. I really did not enjoy him.
I did not enjoy Anna that much either. However, I appreciated how strong she was as a person.
Both actors were fabulous though. Each actor in this movie brought their A-game to the role that they were playing. They all really complemented the pace of the movie. Even though I wasn’t enjoying it, I still wanted to watch it and see where it went.
So, yes, maybe if the cheating did not bother me, I could have really been invested in Henrik and Anna as a relationship and a story, but it did bother me, and so I could not.
I felt similar to Anna’s mother and to Henrik’s aunt/mother. They both did not believe that Henrik and Anna should be together. With Henrik’s temper, I thought the same thing. He was controlling and hot-headed.
There are scenes that I really enjoyed however.
- The scene with Papa and Henrik, talking about the inevitable.
- The scene where Mama breaks down in Anna’s arms.
- The scene with Papa and Mama going to sleep together “good night, my dear.”
- The sequences where Anna wants to send Petrus away, Petrus hears her, and tries to kill Dag. That was all so interesting.
- The ending Christmas scene where its apparent that Mama still has grief over the loss of her husband and admits that there were times that she felt like crying.
- And as well, the scene between Anna and Frida.
And all of these scenes belie how I don’t care too much about Anna and Henrik as a couple.
However, there is something about this movie that makes me feel as if I would return to it someday. In the meantime though, I’d prefer to watch romance movies that don’t begin with cheating.
Despite that, technically, this movie is great. I love the pacing. I love the colors. I loved how much of the time Henrik was centered on screen with no one else in frame (which goes with him claiming to be a loner in the final scenes). I liked the musical motif. And I really liked the dad. If I had a favorite character, it would be him. Also- even though I care not about Henrik&Anna, I did appreciate how August/Bergman chose to represent the flaws of both characters and the flaws in the relationship. It was nice that it wasn’t just romanticized.
Rotten Tomatoes gave it 100%.