Fans of three-time Academy Award winner Ingrid Bergman will swoon over Stig Bjorkman’s “Ingrid Bergman – In Her Own Words,” opening today in Los Angeles at the Nuart Theatre. Bjorkman composes an in-depth and intimate look at Bergman’s life, including the triumphs, tragedies and affairs via personal home movies, photographs, diaries, clips of her films and interviews with all four of her children, among others. It’s a stunning portrait of a complex woman, a brilliant actress, and an often-absent mother.
Through diary entries (voiced by Alicia Vikander) we learn that Bergman’s early life was full of death – her mother died when she was three, her father died from cancer when she was 12. She went to live with an aunt who later died and finally an uncle. She found a “new family” within her school theater productions and later, parts in film. In 1936, she starred in “Intermezzo” which caught the eye of David O. Selznick, who wanted to remake the film with Bergman in English. Bergman came out to Hollywood to test the waters in 1939; husband Petter Lindstrom and young daughter Pia came later.
Success of course followed, and Bergman made a string of great films after “Intermezzo,” including “Gaslight,” “Casablanca,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Spellbound,” and “Notorious.” But she seemed always to be searching for more. There was an affair with esteemed war photographer Robert Capa while on tour in Europe entertaining troups in 1945. Then there was her immense interest in the neo-realist films of Roberto Rossellini (“Rome, Open City”). After writing a fan letter to the Italian director, Bergman was invited to Italy to star in his next film, “Stromboli” (1950).
The rest is history – an affair and a child out of wedlock (Roberto), followed by a divorce from Petter and a marriage to Rossellini. But the damage in America was done – the public and Senate condemned Bergman.
Through these challenging times, Bergman would stay in Italy and have two more children with Rossellini, Isabella and Ingrid. In 1956, after the break-up with Rossellini, Bergman returned to Hollywood to star in “Anastasia” in which she’d win another Oscar, and continue to work in film, stage and later television until her death in 1982 on her 67th birthday.
What’s fascinating about “Ingrid Bergman – In Her Own Words,” beyond its wealth of home movies and film clips is the interviews from Bergman’s four children about their mother. Naturally Pia has a very different perspective than Roberto, Isabella, and Ingrid, but all note that their mother was only truly 100% happy was when she was acting. Yet instead of being bitter, they all still have very fond memories of being with their mother; she was fun to be around.
Perhaps time has erased the edges of some of the absentee parenting. Only Pia remarks bitingly that after the break-up with Rossellini and when her mother married Swedish producer Lars Schmidt, she didn’t take the younger Rossellini kids either. Although all four kids note that they would have a blast when they would come and visit their mother and Lars on his Swedish island.
Director Bjorkman explains that this poignant and informative film came about after a chance meeting with Isabella Rossellini in 2011 who said, “Shall we make a film about ‘mama’?” Viewers will be ever grateful for this meeting. Ingrid Bergman is given new life and appreciation in “Ingrid Bergman – In Her Own Words.”
“Ingrid Bergman – In Her Own Words” is 114 minutes and Not Rated and opens December 11 in Los Angeles at the Nuart Theatre. As an added attraction, the Nuart is screening midnight shows of “Casablanca” to enhance the Ingrid Bergman love fest.