is to believe now what a scandalous figure Ingrid Bergman was in 1950. The
Kristen Stewarts and Lindsay Lohans of today should bow down to Bergman, both
in recognition of her vastly superior talent and in gratitude for all the heat
she took, helping normalize their chaotic private lives in the years to come.
It was a profoundly difficult time for Bergman, but she never stopped being a
grand movie star. To commemorate her centennial, Bergman tells her own story
through home movies, private letters, and the diaries she kept nearly her
entire life in Stig Björkman’s Ingrid
Bergman in Her Own Words (trailer here), which screens as part of the Spotlight
on Documentary section of the 53rd New York Film Festival.
immediately establishes how deeply unhappy Bergman’s early childhood years
truly were. Her mother died before she ever really knew her and her beloved
father passed away when she was only twelve. Subsequently, her caretaker maiden
aunt also died not long after taking her in. Although Björkman and some of
Bergman’s children speculate Bergman sought to find the love and acceptance she
longed for as a child through her acting career, many viewers will just figure
she deserved a break during the Rossellini-Magnani “War of the Volcanoes”
chronicles her career as an extra beaming out crowd scenes, her initial Swedish
success, the Hollywood glory years, her difficult collaborations with her
second husband Roberto Rossellini, and her triumphant return to America cinema.
She may well be the only screen thesp who worked with Alfred Hitchcock, Ingmar
Bergman, Jean Renoir, George Cukor, and of course, Rossellini. It also shows
how some films appreciate over time, whereas others depreciate critically.
Bergman won an Oscar for Sidney Lumet’s Murder
on the Orient Express (her third), but it gets scant mention here.
Björkman worked closely with Isabella, Ingrid, and Roberto Rossellini, Bergman’s
three adoring grown children with Rossellini père, he still assembles a
remarkably balanced profile. Arguably, the most revealing interview segments
are with Bergman’s eldest daughter, former New York arts correspondent Pia
Lindström. It is not that she is critical or resentful, but she clearly has a
more complex and nuanced perspective on the mother she rarely saw during her
of the archival photos and video of Bergman is quite stunning. This is Ingrid
Bergman, the woman millions of people start each New Year with as part of the
annual Casablanca re-watching tradition,
enjoying family celebrations in their Italian villa or jockeying for the camera’s
attention as a young drama student in Stockholm. Yet, she has the same look
that tormented Bogart and seduced Cary Grant.
Björkman nimbly walks the fine line, crafting a balanced enough portrait to
avoid charges of white-wash, while sufficiently capturing his subject’s charm
and warmth to satisfy her family. It is also worth noting, Alicia Vikander, the
current Swedish toast of Hollywood, narrates the extracts from Bergman’s
journals and correspondence, which probably resonate with tremendous meaning and
irony for her. Regardless, Ingrid Bergman
in Her Own Words is an intimate but classy doc that should well please her
fans when it screens this coming Monday (10/5) at the Walter Reade and Tuesday
(10/6) at the Gilman, as part of this year’s NYFF.
Labels: Documentary, Ingrid Bergman, NYFF '15