Ingrid Bergman - In Her Own Words
Directed by Stig Björkman
Starring Ingrid Bergman
Opens Friday, February 12 at the Kendall Square Cinema
Ingrid Bergman was a Swedish actress born on August 29, 1915. She lost her mother at the age of three and her father at the age of twelve. Throughout her acting career she won three Oscars, four Golden Globes, and two Emmys, among other awards. She married a total of three times and had four children. She starred in films like Casablanca, Notorious, and Stromboli. And her eyes. Her eyes were a very beautiful shade of blue.
This is the kind of information you would find if you watched a movie about Ingrid Bergman. And yes, you can find this information in Ingrid Bergman - In Her Own Words, a semi-autobiographical film. But it’s not presented in the way you would normally expect. From the start, In Her Own Words almost exclusively features pieces from Ms. Bergman’s own life. The film features photographs, clips of film her father took of her as a child, clips of films she took over the years, and most interestingly, diary entries and letters she wrote to the people closest to her. It is amazing to consider that Ms. Bergman, who emigrated several times in her life, would keep all her correspondences, her diaries, even her passport from when she was a child! But she did. From Sweden, to America, to Italy, to France, to London.
The film opens with a diary entry from 1928 — Ms. Bergman’s father is ill and her diary entry is a plea to God to make her dad better. From there, the film takes off and progresses through Ms. Bergman’s episodic life. The letters shared show the whole range of emotion as Ms. Bergman grew as an actress: from the elation of being able to go to Hollywood, to the longing for her first daughter, Pia, while she worked, to the passion she felt for her various lovers, and even the joy and then slight fear of first becoming a successful actress and later an aging one.
Stig Björkman, the director, does an incredible job of sharing Ms. Bergman’s life through these personal vignettes and this film becomes more personal with the inclusion of interviews with her children. Ms. Bergman once claimed in an interview that she was “more of a friend than a mother” to them. Her chilren werepained to some degree, knowing that their mother preferred being an actress to being a mother. But they realized and learned to appreciate that Ms. Bergman would be unhappy otherwise. And even when Ms. Bergman was already suffering from breast cancer, that companionable relationship still held. Through the end, she would enjoy spending nights telling stories with her eldest son Roberto.
Of the film’s aesthetics, there is very little to add. Except for the interview segments, the content is comprised entirely of a collection of old film and photographs. As a photographer myself, I could sympathize with Ms. Bergman’s desire to record and keep her memories, and I could find a certain beauty in that.
There is also beauty in watching Ms. Bergman age. The use of clips isn’t fully chronological (in the beginning, there are clips from Ms. Bergman’s second marriage). But in every clip and photo of her, her blue eyes have the same glimmer.