A Tribute to Ingrid Bergman

Stig Björkman’s latest documentary entitled Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words explores the world of Ingrid Bergman. The film debuted at Cannes last year, and since then it has visited several festivals such as Kraków Film Festival this spring.

The Kraków Film Festival is one of the oldest film festivals dedicated entirely to documentary, animated and short feature films. Its 56th edition was a special event from a Scandinavian point of view since this year Swedish cinema was in the spotlight. Sweden is the first Scandinavian country that has earned this honour. And it wouldn’t have been a real celebration of Swedish cinema without the presence of Ingrid Bergman, who are among those talented, passionate and hard-working Swedish actresses, actors and film-makers who proves the excellence of Swedish cinema.

Of course, one cannot really forget the fact that Ingrid Bergman became world-famous in Hollywood. She starred in films directed by Victor Fleming, Michael Curtiz, George Cukor, Alfred Hitchcock, and outside Hollywood in films by Roberto Rossellini and Ingmar Bergman. Even if she had only a small part in a film, she was able to seduce the audience. While she was celebrated in the world of cinema, her private life was also discussed and judged by many due to her love affair with Roberto Rossellini, whom she was married to between 1950-1957 and with whom she had three children. Listening and watching interviews with Ingrid, one can come to the conclusion that she was well aware of the consequences her decisions and didn’t regret anything. That was her life.

Stig Björkman’s film Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words ships into that private life of hers by presenting a selection of archival footage that Ingrid’s children own. The material contains Ingrid’s diaries, photos, short films, childhood memories, etc. On the one hand, this huge amount of material provides the film-makers with sufficient resources to be used to recreate Ingrid’s world, and, on the other hand, it somehow makes them think more what to include and what not. One cannot show everything as the magic easily goes away. This issue was discussed by Stig Björkman in a Q&A session after the film was screened at the 53rd New York Film Festival. He mentioned the struggles with shaping the narrative of the film and elaborated on how difficult was to decide on which archival video footage should be left out in order not to make the film too long.

What does too long mean, one might ask. The film is approximately two hours long, but I assume, the viewers wouldn’t mind if they could see more of one of their favourite actresses, who definitely was more than just an actress. She is told to be a feminist, a woman who was not afraid of conducting her life like her fellow (male) actors. She set examples and can be an inspiration for all those women who are currently aiming at having their voice heard in the context of women’s issues concerning Hollywood and the film industry in general.

It’s no secret that Scandinavia has been a pioneer for years in terms of supporting women’s rights, practising feminism and promoting egalitarianism. Sweden, for instance, has launched campaigns as well as introduced initiatives, scholarships and opportunities for women working in the field of cinema. Ingrid Bergman’s legacy might not have influenced Swedish cinema in that sense, but by taking a closer look we might conclude that she showed a path to step on.

Barbara Majsa

Barbara is a journalist, editor and film critic. She usually does interviews with film-makers, artists, designers, and writes about cinema, design and books.