It would be futile to attempt to craft an intimate portrait
of an actress, or star, who’s been dead more than thirty years—unless she left
behind a treasure trove of diaries, letters, interviews, and home movies, as
well as four grown children who were willing to speak candidly about their
mother. Even with these resources, it would require a filmmaker with equal
parts determination and discretion to organize and finesse the material in a
meaningful way. Isabella Rossellini thought Stig Björkman was the right man for
the job, and she was right. His new documentary is fascinating and uniquely
There is no
need to dwell on Bergman’s unhappy childhood, marked by one devastating loss
after another, in order to understand how it shaped her life and choice of
career. To his credit, Björkman doesn’t play armchair psychiatrist: he allows
Bergman’s children to weigh in and leaves it to us to make our own judgments.
herself provides a through-line for her peripatetic life in retrospective
television interviews and excerpts from her diaries and correspondence (spoken
by Sweden’s newest star, Alicia Vikander). Her children—Pia Lindstrom from her
first marriage, Isabella, Ingrid and Roberto Rossellini, from her second—are
refreshingly honest in their assessment of their mother, who almost always put
her career first but still cared about them.
in black & white and color, are augmented by newsreel footage, brief
excerpts from her films, and her original screen tests for producer David O.
Selznick. (Her personal memorabilia now resides at the Wesleyan University Cinema
Archives in Connecticut, and founder Jeanine Basinger appears briefly on camera
to explain the significance of the collection.)
I found all of this riveting, and
I’m sure movie buffs everywhere will have the same reaction. Ingrid Bergman In Her Own Words opens
today in Los Angeles at the Nuart Theatre. To see where it will be playing in
the weeks ahead click HERE.