Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words, a documentary directed by Stig Björkman, honours the life and art of actress Ingrid Bergman. The film offers an inside look into the life of the Swedish actress who embodied the Golden Age of Hollywood and starred in iconic films worldwide, including Casablanca (1942) and Notorious (1946). Not only does the film pay homage to Bergman’s success as an actress, but it provides an intimate look into her family life and three marriages to doctor Petter Lindström, director Roberto Rossellini, and producer Lars Schmidt. In essence, Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words is a touching tribute to a woman who followed her destiny to create the life of her dreams.
The film paints a lovely portrait of Bergman, an independent woman who followed her heart from Stockholm to Hollywood, then to Italy, France, and England. The piece provides a glimpse into the many lives she led, not just on stage but in life, centering on her most important role: A mother to her four children. The film utilizes rare video footage and interviews with her children that highlight the significant role she had in shaping their lives. Despite a nontraditional upbringing, their reverence for their mother is unmistakable, which is emphasized throughout the film.
The primary focus of the film is given to the life Bergman led, both on and off screen. It is essentially her own story told through a collage of diary entries, home movies, letters, and personal photographs woven together by her life experiences. Alicia Vikander narrates the film and gives a voice to Bergman’s diary entries in their original form by voicing over photographs that correspond to Bergman’s diary entries. The score by Michael Nyman provides a beautiful backdrop to the scenes and photographs.
Bergman’s story began in Stockholm, Sweden, as an aspiring actress. The film brings to light Bergman’s relationship with her father, a photographer who influenced her passion for film and photography. After the untimely death of her parents, Bergman went to live with her aunt and studied acting at the Royal Dramatic Theatre School. Bergman’s talent for acting was immediately evident and following great success in Swedish cinema, she relocated to Hollywood, leaving behind her first husband Petter and young daughter, Pia, who later came to live with her in New York and Los Angeles.
The narrative of the film is presented through archival footage, clips from Ingrid Bergman’s time in Hollywood and on stage in Paris, which includes her speech receiving her first Academy Award for Best Actress in Gaslight (1943). The film includes interviews with her children Pia Lindstrom, Ingrid, Isabella and Renato Rossellini, as well as close friends and family members. The interviews add a personal touch to the film, and the documentary looks at Bergman’s life through a nostalgic lens, rather than in a critical manner. Essentially celebrating Bergman, the documentary juxtaposes moments from Bergman's life shifting from Hollywood to her family life. A deeper theme expressed in the documentary is the impact Bergman had on her children, and the documentary is told through their eyes.
Bergman’s diary entries express her conflicting roles as mother, wife and actress. They recount her attained fantasy of living in Hollywood working as an actress combined with her insatiable thirst for adventure; however, life was not always a fairytale for Bergman. After falling in love with Rossellini, who was then married, she was shunned from Hollywood for committing adultery. The film shows how the Rossellini family navigated the scandal surrounding the marriage, and the life she led in Italy. During this period, Bergman mainly starred in Italian films, as well as in theatre productions in Paris, starring in a vast array of roles including playing the lead in Joan of Arc (1948).
Bergman was an avid photographer and filmed her travels with her husband and, her family life, focussing on her children.The camera was a powerful tool for Bergman as it allowed her to document her life experiences. Photography was not only a creative outlet, but it allowed her to carry her memories with her throughout her travels and time abroad. In this manner, the film provides a first-hand look into Bergman’s adventurous spirit and her commitment to preserving her memories.
Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words is a testament to Bergman’s accomplishments, artistry, and enthusiasm for life that touched all those who met her. Bergman’s enduring charm was one of her defining characteristics, which is ever-present in her films and photographs.