Astrid Henning-Jensen?s film career is closely linked with that of her husband, the director Bjarne Henning-Jensen, but includes significant solo projects as well. Both 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 the Henning-Jensens played an important part in this. In 1943 they made their first feature film, 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?again with Astrid as assistant director?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-Nex?. 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, while Astrid Henning-Jensen?who had made her debut as a solo director in 1945?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 late 1970s that she regained her old position. In 1978?s Vinterb?rn, about women and their problems in a maternity ward, and in 1980?s ?jeblikket, 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?in both cases writing the screenplay as well as directing.?