"Ingrid Bergman In Her Own Words" by Stig Björkman (Sweden)
Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival - Docs@POFF
Name: Otto Kylmala
It is widely known that the Hollywood studio system was a difficult period for directors working with limitations. Getting your original signature on films wasn’t an easy task. What is often forgotten is that for actors getting your voice heard was even harder. Ingrid Bergman In Her Own Words is a film that gets an actor’s voice heard and signature visible.
This wonderful portrait is done by filmmaker, journalist and writer Stig Björkman, who for years has been one of the best listeners of the film world. He has given us insightful conversation books with Woody Allen and Lars von Trier and now, he gives the voice to one of the greatest actresses who ever lived. The film is neither about craft nor Bergman’s work per se, but rather the person, the human being behind classic roles and those ever-smiling eyes.
Ingrid Bergman is one of the artistically most successful film actresses in film history. Two-time Oscar winner worked with all of the great directors from Hitchcock to Renoir and from Rossellini to Bergman. After a successful period in her native Sweden, she settled to USA to work for under contract for producer David O. Selznick. After her fruitful Hollywood period (Casablanca, Gaslight, Notorious) she contacted the Italian neo-realist master, Roberto Rossellini in order to work with him. What started of first as a professional admiration, soon turned into a fiery romance and her second marriage.
In getting her story out truthfully, Bergman herself should get a co-directing credit for the film. The emotional impact and the candid inside look the film gives is, to a large extent, because of the home movies she filmed herself. In the foreground of these films are famous directors and personalities, but most importantly her family.
We see Bergman always joyous with her kids: laughing, swimming and fooling around. More than words, affectionate kisses are exchanged. The footage is the embodiment of happiness. Because of the fun-loving and carefree material, one might think that Bergman's whole life was one long, constant summer, but unfortunately this wasn't the case.
Bergman’s life was shadowed by traumatic events from her early childhood, when she lost almost all of her family in the span of one year. Later on in her life, when she divorced her first husband and married Rossellini, she suffered a huge moral backlash and boycotts for her films.
Bergman was the embodiment of charm, fun and beauty, but she was also courageous, determined, smart and kind. The film mediates this with warmth, intimacy and Michael Nyman’s uplifting score. Her determination to succeed and prevail comes across in the quotes (which for some strange reason weren’t translated for the non-Swedish speaking audience at a screening of the festival).
The ideas of looking and to be seen are crucially important, not only in the film, but in Bergman’s life as well. One of the reasons why she developed a convulsive need and interest to photograph and film everything around her, has its roots in her childhood, since Bergman’s father used to photograph and film her early on. Björkman’s gaze observes Bergman with love, so the viewer can’t but fall under her spell and lost in her eyes.
The eyes are something truly eternal in Bergman. From the early days of Munkbrogreven to her late days in Autumn Sonata, the eyes hide behind them a million and one thoughts, a galaxy of emotions. The only thing the viewer has to do is open their eyes, ears and hearts. Then they start to unravel the mystery, which is Ingrid Bergman.