When driving through a neighborhood, I’ve always been one who enjoys looking in the windows of homes, imagining the lives inside. People have always fascinated me, what shapes them, what drives them, who they are beyond what the eye can see.
Perhaps that is why I enjoy personal documentaries and biographies, particularly of classic film stars. In an era of studio control, glamour and polished public images, I’m always curious to learn the truth behind the persona, the person behind the characters they play on screen.
I have seen many of Ingrid Bergman’s films. And like another Swedish import (Garbo) the camera worships her. But though she often played parts which required a great range of emotion, many times I’ve felt like she herself was remote. A mystery, despite the little bit I knew of her life.
“Her life began and ended on film.”
Ingrid Bergman: Remembered gave me a glimpse of the real Ingrid, daughter, wife, mother and actress. Filmed many years after her death, it delivers a look at the intertwining of both her private and personal lives as remembered by two of her daughters, Pia Lindstrom and Isabella Rossellini.
Pia’s and Isabella’s memories of their mother are honest but bathed in love. Their affection for a mother who was often absent for her job shows great understanding. They continually refer to her career as art, realizing that it was more than just a job for Ingrid. It was a calling which required sacrifice, not just on her own part, but theirs as well.
Pia says Ingrid described herself as “a train moving down the tracks” and said her mother had a determination of steel. She relied on her own judgment and was rarely swayed by the advice of others.
One of the most fascinating revelations of this documentary is how Ingrid’s lonely, tragic childhood shaped her life. From the beginning, her life was shaped by a camera lens. Her father was a photographer who often used Ingrid as a model. Ingrid’s mother died when she was a toddler and her father by the time she was thirteen. With no siblings, she often escaped reality through her imagination which helped her later in channeling her film characters. This quality of child like innocence was referenced several times.
Ingrid often led a tumultuous life. She was forced to make difficult choices concerning her children, often sacrificing family life for the sake of her passion. Despite this, both her daughters seem to bear no ill will for their mother and have been able to accept her for who she was. The times they did spend together with their mother were full of love and good memories.
But it’s not just their perspective shared in Ingrid Bergman: Remembered. Voice recordings of Ingrid’s own memories are included as well. It is through these that we get a glimpse at how Ingrid viewed her own life. If she experienced any inner conflict or turmoil over the way she was viewed by the public and treated by the press she didn’t show it. As her daughter Pia states, she seemed to have a remarkable ability to forgive and to avoid self-pity.
If you are interested in a deeper look into Ingrid’s film career, you might be disappointed by this documentary. Though it does mention some of her most successful films, it doesn’t really dive into any detail of her performances. However, it does clarify that Ingrid’s onscreen image as a saint and martyr contributed to the public outcry against her when she failed to live up to that image. It’s a good reminder that people are human and shouldn’t be placed up on pedestals.
Overall, I really enjoyed Ingrid Bergman: Remembered. I loved learning a bit more about her life through her own eyes and those of her daughters. While there is so much more now I wish to know about her, this was a good starter course to whet my appetite for more of Ingrid. No longer does she seem just a beautiful face on the screen, but a very warm human who is remembered with love.
This is my contribution to The Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon hosted by The Wonderful World of Cinema. Thanks to Virginie for hosting. She is a true fan of Ingrid Bergman. You can find her many wonderful tributes to the actress on her website as well as other posts for the blogathon.