Nominated for seven Oscars, winner of three, forever having reached iconic status for her role opposite Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, Ingrid Bergman kept everything. From childhood diaries, letters wrote and received, as well as her own home movies, Bergman kept her memories close at hand. Now, almost thirty-five years after her death, Swedish filmmaker and critic Stig Björkman has crafted a revealing portrait of the actress’s life. Composed largely of material culled from Bergman’s own vast archive of diaries, letters. home videos, interviews, and photos, Ingrid Bergman serves as the guide through her own life story.
A complex woman, Bergman had a difficult childhood. Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Ingrid’s died when she was two, her father when she was thirteen. Early on, she knew she wanted to be someone, and she wanted to leave Sweden to do it. By 1939, Ingrid, a young wife and new mother, had achieved movie stardom in Sweden when Gone With the Wind producer David O. Selznick brought her to America to star in Intermezzo: A Love Story, a remake of her 1936 Swedish hit. An early Hollywood screen test shows a smoldering yet innocent young woman. A workaholic, Bergman admitted, when she wasn’t acting, “Only half of me is alive!”
Her letters to an old friend in Sweden are filled with her enthusiasm over working with Hollywood heavyweights such as Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, Bing Crosby, and Alfred Hitchcock. Bergman wrote she had achieved “everything I’ve always wanted. It’s incredible when your dreams come true.”
Never particularly concerned with convention, motherhood and even Bergman’s career would be overshadowed by her love life. In 1949, during the filming of Stromboli, she and director Roberto Rossellini began an affair. When the married Bergman left her husband and daughter and had a son out of wedlock, a scandal erupted. Denounced on the floor of the United States Senate, the actress returned to Italy where she married Rossellini.
Bergman had four children in all, but she was never a traditional mother. She didn’t always live with them, be it for professional or personal reasons. Bergman was open about wanting to be seen more as friend then a mother. Some of the most touching comments come from her children: Pia Lindström, and Roberto, Isotta and Isabella Rossellini. While they all agree she was more a friend than a mother, they have come to terms with her shortcomings, simply agreeing they wish they had more of her.
It’s difficult to cover the life of such a complex woman in just under two hours, but Björkman does a nice job. Avoiding the trap of psychoanalysis, he lets Bergman’s own words do the talking. Fellow swede Vikander acts as the narrator, adding an air of authenticity to the proceedings, speaking in her native language, and accent as she reads letters and other materials.
Informative, fascinating, and occasionally sad, Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words is a revealing portrait of a woman who kept even her childhood passport because she “knew her life was going to be important,” and made it so.
Criterion has delivered the precise, clean 1080p transfer the label is known for. The documentary includes Ingrid Bergman’s home video footage from the 1920s and 30s. While it occasionally looks a bit rough, it’s still commendable given its age. Criterion has done the necessary touch up without losing Björkman’s intent and Bergman’s family’s wishes to present the footage with minimal correction. Overall, the image maintains a strong level of sharpness, be it Bergman’s footage, archival photos, or close-up interviews.
Criterion’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track in the original Swedish (with optional English subtitles) with some sequences in English. There is a whole lot of separation in evidence, but the narration, and other dialogue is clean, and clear throughout.
This release offers up a nice slate of extras:
- New Interview with Director Stig Björkman (HD, 18:35) Recorded for Criterion in 2016, the director discusses how a meeting with Isabella Rossellini led to the project. Further, he takes us through the process of putting the various archival materials together.
- Home Movies (HD, 7:07) Various scenes from 8 mm home movies shot by Bergman in the 1930s, provided by Pia Lindström.
- Deleted Scenes (HD) Two in total, one showing Bergman’s daughters reading an essay she wrote at age seventeen (2:54) and an interview with film historian and Bergman scholar Rosario Tronnolone (8:45)
- Extended Scenes (HD, 14:01, 5:48) Interviews with actors Sigourney Weaver and Liv Ullmann and Bergman’s four children.
- Landskamp (HD, 0:34) A brief clip of the 1932 Swedish movie Landskamp, which marked Ingrid Bergman’s first appearance on film as an extra.
- On the Sunny Side (HD, 4:02) Outtakes from the 1936 Swedish film featuring Ingrid Bergman, and co-star Lars Hanson.
- Music Video (HD, 4;42) For Eva Dahlgren’s song “The Movie About Us,” which is included on the film’s soundtrack.
- Trailer (HD, 1:35)
- A Fold Out Insert featuring an essay by film scholar Jeanine Basinger.