Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words

ingrid-bergman-2As well as being an internationally renowned film and stage actor, Ingrid Bergman was also a chronicler of her life. In the new documentary Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words we are taken through her life using documentation from her own personal archive.

From an early age Bergman recorded her life in diaries. She was a great one for correspondence via letters to her close friends. She also had a love of home movies and spent a great deal of time filming her professional and private life. As she moved from place to place she carried this archive of her life with her. One theory that is considered in the film is that as she lost her parents and siblings at an early stage in her life she wanted a way to feel part of a family.

The film uses material from her own collection and mixes it with more professional material in order to tell her life story from her own perspective. One thing that comes across is that she was a very motivated person. She had little time for the fame involved in being an actor and really only wanted to spend her time acting. Being absent from work for over two months was torture to her.

The film takes a more or less linear path. It features a narration from Alicia Vikander who brings the letters and diary entries to life on the screen. This is interspersed with frank interviews with her children and friends including Issabella Rossellini, Liv Ulman and Sigourney Weaver. Little is held back in their recollections of their mother and their relationships with her. The way the story unfolds on the screen is fascinating. With the access to the private footage you get a real sense of the person behind the image.

ingrid-bergman-3What the film shows is the turbulent life that Bergman lived while trying to be the best actor she could be. Her ongoing quest for acting perfection led to her to always being looking forward. In her wake, there was a string of marriages and romances. What becomes apparent, and is voiced by several interviewees, is the way she was drawn to the people who photographed her. Her father was always taking and shooting small films with her and this lead to a lifetime of being attracted to directors and photographers.

The director Stig Bjorkman was given unrestricted access to the material and has been at pains to point out that the family had absolutely no influence or creative control over the final product. It shows. Bergman comes across as someone whose career was the most important thing in her life. She loved her children but at times they were secondary to her goals. That does not mean she was neglectful. Just that there were periods when she was not there. Her children all seemed to understand as they constantly lived their early lives in the spotlight and have a unique view of the life she had to lead at times.

What came of a surprise is that for an actor that is held in such high esteem today, she was basically hounded out of America in the late 1940’s for her decision to divorce her first husband and marry Roberto Rossellini to whom she was expecting a child. A scandal like that would have blown over in weeks now. It is almost expected of some celebrities.

Overall, an absorbing and fascinating look at one of the real stars of the silver screen. Recommended.

John McArthur
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