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Henning-Jensen, Astrid and Bjarne

HENNING-JENSEN, Astrid and Bjarne

Nationality: Danish. Born: Frederiksberg, Denmark; Astrid (née Astrid Smahl): 10 December 1914; Bjarne: 6 October 1908. Family: Married 6 October 1938. Career: Bjarne actor at various theatres, Astrid actress at "Riddersalen," Copenhagen, 1931–38; Bjarne director at Nordisk Films Kompagni, 1940–50; Astrid assistant director, 1941, then director, 1943, at Nordisk; Astrid at Norsk Film A/S, Oslo, 1950–52; Bjarne and Astrid both worked as freelance writers and directors for film, theatre, radio, and television, from early 1950s. Awards: Astrid: Director Prize, Venice, for Denmark Grows Up, 1947; Cannes Festival Prize for Palle Alone in the World, 1949; Catholic Film Office Award, Cannes Festival, and Technik Prize, for Paw, 1960; Best Director, Berlin Festival, for Winter Children, 1979. Bjarne: Director Prize, Venice, for Ditte: Child of Man, 1946. Address: Astrid: Frederiksberg Allé 76, DK-1820 Copenhagen V, Denmark. Died: Bjarne, 1995.

Films as Directors:


Cykledrengene i Tørvegraven (Bjarne only)


Hesten paa Kongens Nytorv (Bjarne only); Brunkul (Bjarne only); Arbejdet kalder (Bjarne only); Chr. IV som Bygherre (Christian IV: Master Builder) (Bjarne only)


Sukker (Sugar) (Bjarne only)


Korn (Corn) (Bjarne only); Hesten (Horses) (Bjarne only); Føllet (Bjarne only); Papir (Paper) (Bjarne only); Naarman kun er ung (To Be Young) (Bjarne only); S.O.S.Kindtand (S.O.S. Molars)


De danske Sydhavsøer (Danish Island) (Bjarne only)


Flyktingar finner en hamn (Fugitives Find Shelter); Danskpoliti i Sverige (Astrid only); Folketingsvalg 1945; Brigadeni Sverige (Danish Brigade in Sweden) (Bjarne only); Frihedsfonden (Freedom Committee) (Bjarne only)


Ditte Menneskebarn (Ditte: Child of Man) (Bjarne d, Astrid asst)


Stemning i April; De pokkers unger (Those Blasted Kids); Denmark Grows Up (Astrid co-d only)


Kristinus Bergman


Palle alene i Verden (Palle Alone in the World) (Astrid only)


Vesterhavsdrenge (Boys from the West Coast)


Kranes Konditori (Krane's Bakery Shop) (Astrid only)


Ukjent mann (Unknown Man) (Astrid only)




Tivoligarden spiller (Tivoli Garden Games); Ballettens børn (Ballet Girl) (Astrid only)


Kaerlighed pa kredit (Love on Credit) (Astrid only, + sc); Ensaelfangst i Nordgrønland (Bjarne only); Hvor bjergenesejler (Where Mountains Float) (Bjarne only)


Hest på sommerferie (Astrid only); Paw (Boy of Two Worlds, The Lure of the Jungle) (Astrid only)


Een blandt mange (Astrid only)


Kort är sommaren (Short Is the Summer) (Bjarne only)


De blå undulater (Astrid only)


Utro (Unfaithful) (Astrid only)


Min bedstefar er en stok (Astrid only)


Nille (Astrid only)


Mig og dig (Me and You) (Astrid only)


Skipper & Co. (Bjarne only)


Vinterbørn (Winter Children) (Astrid only, + sc, ed)


Øjeblikket (The Moment) (Astrid only)


Barndommens gade (Street of Childhood) (Astrid only)


In Spite Of


Bella, My Bella

Other Films:


Cocktail (Astrid: role)


Kongen bød (Bjarne: role)


Genboerne (Bjarne: role)


Jens Langkniv (Bjarne: role)


Damen med de lyse Handsker (Christensen) (Bjarne: role)

* * *

Astrid and Bjarne Henning-Jensen started as stage actors, but shortly after they married in 1938 they began working in films. Bjarne Henning-Jensen directed several government documentaries beginning in 1940 and he was joined by Astrid in 1943. At that time the Danish documentary film, strongly influenced by the British documentary of the 1930s, was blooming, and Bjarne Henning-Jensen played an important part in this. In 1943 he made his first feature film, with Astrid serving as assistant director. Naar man kun er ung was a light, everyday comedy, striving for a relaxed and charming style, but it was too cute, and it was politely received. Their next film, Ditte Menneskebarn, was their breakthrough, and the two were instantly considered as the most promising directors in the postwar Danish cinema. The film was an adaptation of a neoclassical novel by Martin Andersen-Nexø. It was a realistic story of a young country girl and her tragic destiny as a victim of social conditions. The novel, published between 1917 and 1921, was in five volumes, but the Henning-Jensens used only parts of the novel. The sentimentality of the book was, happily, subdued in the film, and it is a sensitive study of a young girl in her milieu. The film was the first example of a more realistic and serious Danish film and it paralleled similar trends in contemporary European cinema, even if one would refrain from calling the film neorealistic. It was a tremendous success in Denmark and it also won a certain international recognition.

Astrid and Bjarne Henning-Jensen's film was a sincere attempt to introduce reality and authentic people to the Danish film. They continued this effort in their subsequent films, but a certain facile approach, a weakness for cute effects, and a sensibility on the verge of sentimentality made their films less and less interesting. In the 1950s Bjarne Henning-Jensen returned to documentaries. In 1955 he made the pictorially beautiful Hvor bjergene sejler, about Greenland. He attempted a comeback to features in 1962 with a rather pedestrian adaptation of Knut Hamsun's novel Pan called Kort är sommaren. His last film, in 1974, was a failure. Astrid Henning-Jensen continued making films on her own. She made two carefully directed and attractive films in Norway, and in the 1960s she tried to keep up with the changing times in a couple of films. But it was not until the last few years that she regained her old position. In Vinterbørn, about women and their problems in a maternity ward, and in Øjeblikket, treating the problems of a young couple when it is discovered that the woman is dying of cancer, she worked competently within an old established genre in Danish films, the problem-oriented popular drama.

—Ib Monty

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