Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words
Ingrid Bergman never threw anything away. As her life transformed through chapters and changes, and she moved through different husbands and lovers and continents and countries, she took with her accumulating boxes of family photographs, reels of home movies, and her diaries and journals.
At the instigation of Bergman’s daughter Isabella Rossellini, and with the participation of the actress’s other children and friends, Swedish director Stig Björkman has fashioned a warm and intimate portrait of the woman who won America’s heart with her enchanting smile and poignant aura of mystery in movies like Casablanca; lost it when she fled Hollywood and husband for a career, affair, marriage, and children (not strictly in that order) with Italian director Roberto Rossellini; and then won it again as time and evolving standards healed the wounds she’d inflicted on the puritan American psyche. A painfully amusing clip shows TV host Ed Sullivan asking his audience to vote on whether she’d suffered enough, and should be welcome on his show.
The title promises Bergman’s own words, and we get them through passages from her diaries read in Swedish in a gentle, melancholy-tinged voice-over by her native country’s new superstar, Alicia Vikander. The earliest ones are heartbreaking, as twelve-year-old Ingrid prays to God to spare her beloved father, dying of cancer. Her prayers go unanswered, and she finds herself a shy orphaned teenager who turns to her school’s drama club as a means of escape.
Stage roles and then Swedish movies led her to Hollywood, with a contract from David O. Selznick. She put in 10 years there, going from star-struck innocent to veteran pro, much of this recounted in letters to her best friend Mollie in Sweden. “It’s incredible,” she writes breathlessly, “when your dreams come true.”
There’s very little analysis of the process and technique that went into her films. We get her impressions of co-stars like Cary Grant ( Notorious,
Indiscreet), a wonderful guy, and Humphrey Bogart ( Casablanca), interesting and not a typical Hollywood pretty boy. We hear about her directors, with at least one of whom, Victor Fleming ( Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Joan of Arc) she had an affair. She also had a passionate affair with the photographer Robert Capa.
The main thrust is on Ingrid Bergman the woman, as seen through a wealth of home movies and interviews with all four children: Pia Lindström, from her first marriage, and the Rossellinis — Roberto, and the twins Ingrid and Isabella. She didn’t spend much time with them, but they all remember her with love and affection.
Bergman was always restless. “There is a bird of passage inside me, always wanting more,” she says, and her life was a celebration of the idea that fulfillment is found by following your passions.
“I regret the things I didn’t do, not what I did,” she tells a reporter. “I was given courage, and I was given a sense of adventure. And that has carried me along, with a sense of humor and a little bit of common sense. And it’s been a very rich life.”
Notorious: Ingrid Bergman