Original title: Jag är Ingrid
D: Stig Björkman / 114m
With: Ingrid Bergman (archive footage), Alicia Vikander, Pia Lindström, Roberto Rossellini Jr, Isabella Rossellini, Isotta Rossellini, Sigourney Weaver, Liv Ullmann
An accomplished, award-winning actress, Ingrid Bergman was also an inveterate diarist and she kept hours upon hours of home movie footage across all three of her marriages, along with thousands of photographs. She charted her life and career through these recorded memories, and would often find herself looking back at favourite moments whenever the mood took her. And thanks to all this “memory hoarding”, Bergman has provided the platform on which movie maker Stig Björkman has assembled a captivating, insightful documentary on the star herself.
Told in the style of a not-quite linear autobiography, Ingrid Bergman in Her Own Words offers a succession of affecting, candid scenes from Bergman’s life that are punctuated by talking heads recollections from her children and others, and Vikander reading the actress’s personal letters and diary entries. Bergman’s childhood and close, formative relationship with her father is covered, as are her first excursions in front of the camera in a series of Swedish movies. Her first marriage to brain surgeon Petter Lindström reveals a young woman on the brink of stardom and enjoying every aspect of the Hollywood experience that would ultimately see them split up.
From this, it becomes clear that Bergman was committed more to her career than she was to her daughter, Pia, a circumstance that carried on when she had her children with Roberto Rossellini. Whether this was a conscious choice or not isn’t made clear but it does speak to Bergman’s desire to act above everything else. It also helps to explain how she was able to leave Hollywood for Italy and a period in her life when she was pilloried in the press for “abandoning” Petter and Pia. From there the movie covers the late Forties and her career resurgence thanks to Anastasia (1956), and her third marriage to theatrical producer Lars Schmidt. An inevitable collaboration with fellow Swede Ingmar Bergman on Autumn Sonata (1978) follows on, until her death from breast cancer in 1982.
The movie stresses Bergman’s dedication to her career (a little too much at times), but it also highlights just how much she enjoyed life and made as much of it as she could. Her children’s thoughts often provide an alternative viewpoint, but their love for her is evident throughout, even though she was largely an absent presence in their lives (all of them wish they could have had more time with her, but don’t begrudge her absence at all). The various archival elements are compiled with a great deal of care, and are fascinating for their candour and historical relevance. It all goes to prove that, despite some controversial (for the time) personal decisions, Bergman was admired and respected by pretty much everyone she came into contact with.
Rating: 7/10 – as a straightforward, no frills documentary, Ingrid Bergman in Her Own Words works incredibly well in spite of lacking any appreciable depth, but Björkman assembles the varied materials with skill; a knowing and affectionate tribute to an actress who David O. Selznick referred to as “the most completely conscientious actress” he had ever worked with, this is for fans and newcomers alike.