Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. Sweden, 2015. Chimney Pot, Chimney, Creative Europe Programmet – Media under den Europæiske Union, Filmregion Stockholm Mälardalen, Jonas Gardell Produktion, Mantaray Film, SVT, Spellbound Capital, Svenska Filminstitutet, Svenska YLE, Swedish Arts Grants Committee, ZDF/Arte. Screenplay by Stig Bjorkman, Dominika Daubenbuchel, Stina Gardell. Cinematography by Eva Dahlgren, Malin Korkeasalo. Produced by Stina Gardell. Music by Eva Dahlgren, Michael Nyman. Film Editing by Dominika Daubenbuchel.
A richly enjoyable valentine to one of the cinema’s greatest performers, for the celebration of her centenary. Originally from Sweden, Ingrid Bergman grew up the adored child of her father before losing him as a pre-teen, and having already lost her mother as an infant was freely set upon the world with a desire for adventure that would continue for the rest of her life. Success in drama school led to work in Swedish films before then being poached by David O. Selznick for a romantic film she had already made at home, Intermezzo, for its English language remake. Films like For Whom The Bell Tolls, Casablanca and Gaslight established her as a respected actress and movie star, her intelligently subtle delivery and beautiful but uncomplicated looks defining her as the image of the hardy World War II woman. From there continued the years of scandal, her affair with Roberto Rossellini seeing her denounced on the Senate floor, then life and work in Italy, France and eventually London until her premature demise from cancer at the age of 67. Bergman had an image of demure charm that was only the beginning of a mercurial offscreen personality, a woman who said yes to life in every possible way even when it meant personal sacrifices. Her four children appear to give heartfelt testimonials about their mother that hold her sometimes disappointing behavior up to scrutiny (she left them behind a bit too easily for their own taste) but aren’t laden with bitterness or regret. This makes for a lack of complexity to the documentary, but it’s hard to fault her children for having uncomplicated feelings about a mother they haven’t seen in thirty years and whose age at the time of her passing they have more or less reached. For us the spectator she had a voracious appetite for life and a consistent quality in her performances (there’s electricity in The Bells Of St. Mary’s or Autumn Sonata and everything in between) so there’s no need to fault someone for making a documentary that is mainly adoring admiration. What’s most rewarding about Stig Bjorkman’s film is the wealth of footage that he has to work with here: Bergman’s father was a rare man of his time to liberally use a home movie camera to film his daughter, a tradition Bergman herself continued, and she herself was meticulous about saving films and photos, which means that all stages of her life are well documented and make for mesmerizing viewing. Perhaps, her children hypothesize, being viewed through her father’s lens was why she was so comfortable in front of camera: the inclusion of Bergman’s diary entries, read by Alicia Vikander, provide little to support this as they are rarely introspective but they do give the odd interesting reaction to her experiences.