Uppsala in the year 1909. Henrik Bergman (Samuel Fröler) and Anna (Pernilla August) are a disparate couple: Henrik, an irascible, unforgiving theology student, is dead poor and feels that the world’s against him; Anna is the spoilt, headstrong, soft-hearted daughter of a wealthy family. According to Anna’s parents (Max von Sydow and Ghita Nørby), a match between the two will inevitably end in disaster. However, it proves impossible to prevent them from getting married, and the couple move to northern Sweden where Henrik takes over a small parish.
According to Ingmar Bergman, he based his screenplay on the stormy marriage of his parents, Erik and Karin Bergman, née Åkerblom. The story takes place between 1909 and 1918, from the time they first meet to shortly before the birth of their second son, who was then to be named Ingmar. Heart-rending, dramatic and sometime violent conflicts take place between Henrik and Anna, who are also struggling against intrigues from all sides to bring them apart as well as hostilities from the congregation. But they always succeed in getting back together again. Directed by Bille August, the work was originally filmed as a seven-part TV production, which was then prepared for cinema in a shortened version. At the 1992 Cannes Film Festival DEN GODA VILJAN received the Palme d’Or and Pernilla August was named Best Actress.