SEARCHING FOR INGMAR BERGMAN (2018, doc)

November 2, 2018

 Greetings again from the darkness. Despite his being one of the most productive and influential filmmakers of all-time, it’s understandable if you are concerned that a biopic of Ingmar Bergman might be a bit dry or difficult to connect with … you know, kind of like his movies. The happy truth is that Margarethe von Trotta, Felix Moeller, and Bettina Bohler have collaborated on this very interesting dig inside the mind and process of this remarkable Swedish artist.

Mr. Bergman’s best known films include: THE SEVENTH SEAL (1957), WILD STRAWBERRIES (1957), PERSONA (1966), CRIES AND WHISPERS (1972), SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE (1973), FANNY AND ALEXANDER (1982). It’s likely you have either seen all of these or none, but either way, as long as you have some interest in the history of cinema, you’ll be hooked on the multiple interviews and clips provided here.

Among those interviewed are actress Liv Ullman (she turns 80 this year), who appeared in 10 (she says 11) Bergman films. She cheerfully recalls the first time she met the director and how it led to their first collaboration, PERSONA. We also hear insight and personal stories from director and fellow Swede Ruben Ostlund (director of the terrific FORCE MAJEURE), Swedish documentarian Stig Bjorkman, and two of Bergman’s sons, Daniel and Ingmar Jr. On the personal side, we learn the legendary filmmaker was son to the Parson of a local church, married 5 different women and fathered 9 children via 6 women (his 5 wives plus Liv Ullmann), and that he wasn’t close to any of his children. He was described as viewing childhood through his own, rather than that of his kids. On his 60th birthday, there was an unusual gathering of all 9 children, many who had never previously met.

Maybe some of this is explained by Bergman’s own definition of art as “therapy for the artist”. This makes sense as so many discuss his insecurities and his own concerns with never being good enough. This despite a career of 50 plus films (many of which are studied in film classes) and nearly three times that many stage productions. Being wrongfully accused of tax evasion in 1976 affected his health and career, as well as his love of homeland Sweden. He moved to Germany before living out most of his life on the island of Faro – where he also filmed many movies.

The interviews presented here by Ms. Von Trotta (herself an accomplished filmmaker and actress) are each informative, though additional interviews from Max von Sydow, Bibi Andersson (each appeared in 13 Bergman movies), and Woody Allen (the American filmmaker most closely associated with Bergman) would not just have added flavor, but were also kind of expected. The end result is that we view Bergman as the ultimate brooder, and one who had much respect and admiration for actors. Though he passed away in 2007 (the same day as director Antonioni), we are now even more convinced that Ingmar Bergman was a master of both the written word and on screen imagery.

watch the trailer:

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INGRID BERGMAN IN HER OWN WORDS (2015, doc)

November 12, 2015

ingrid Greetings again from the darkness. A seven time Oscar nominee and three time winner. One of the best known and most beloved actresses of all-time. Fifty year acting career. Died at age 67, mere weeks after her final performance. These are all bullet points to highlight Ingrid Bergman, the cinematic icon. However, documentarian (and fellow Swede) Stig Bjorkman pays little attention to the icon, and instead focuses on the woman.

What sets this apart from many biographical portraits is Bjorkman’s access to Bergman’s diaries, journals, personal letters, photos, home videos, and most importantly, interviews with her four children: Pia Lindstrom, Roberto Rossellini, and twins Isabella and Ingrid Rossellini. It’s a treasure trove of memories, documentation and insight into a woman who lived life on her own terms … often in direct opposition to what societal norms dictate. The film neither defends nor celebrates her free spirit; it simply reports it and allows us to sit in judgment, should we be so inclined.

One of the best clips is young Ingrid’s screen test where her natural beauty radiates on screen, and her expressive eyes make it obvious why David O Selznick recognized her star quality. But there are numerous other clips and photographs which show her mostly involved with her family … one of her husbands and some combination of her kids. Not fitting into the typical “motherly” box, Ingrid spent an enormous amount of time away from her kids as they were growing up. She clearly loved them very much, as evidenced by the words in her diaries and letters, and the visuals from their time together. And the interviews with her children today make it obvious they viewed her as a fun friend, rather than the nurturing mom.

Another aspect that is crystal clear is the ambition and drive possessed by Ingrid. She even states “no one can have everything”, and her actions and words make it obvious that acting was what brought her to life – whether on screen or on stage. It never took long on the home front for her to feel the pull of her true adventurous nature, and soon enough she was back on a movie set … leaving the kids behind.

Specifics of her movie career are mostly glossed over. Casablanca has a quick segment, as does her time with Alfred Hitchcock. Instead, we get a broad perspective of the scandal that rocked the movie world … a pregnant Ingrid left her first husband (Petter Lindstrom) for her director-lover Roberto Rossellini. For the times, this was extreme impropriety and there were even boycotts of her films. No place was harder on her than the United States. Absolutely unapologetic and without remorse, Ingrid took her career to Europe. Ingrid and Roberto had three kids together, and since history has a way of repeating itself, it was only a matter of time before Roberto was with his pregnant girlfriend in India, and Ingrid moved on to producer Lars Schmidt (and his private island).

The most impact from the timeline comes courtesy of the four adult children as they recall the extended times away from their mother, followed by memorable and fun stints together. Of course, they have each had many years to come to terms with a mother who frequently chose pursuing her career dreams to spending time with them. Imagine having a mother who said “I belong more to the make-believe world of theatre and film”. It can make you tough and independent, or it can have the opposite effect. We hear each of them discuss.

This is the wrong place to look for a career retrospective of Ingrid Bergman the actress, but it’s an intimate and fascinating look at a woman who understood what was important to her, and refused to be ruled by societal expectations. Young Swedish actress Alicia Vikander provides voice-over for much of Ingrid’s written word, but it’s Ms. Bergman’s actions and the insight from Pia, Roberto, Isabella and Ingrid that complete the full portrait of a most unusual woman. Ms. Bergman died in 1982 (age 67), just weeks after her final role in the TV movie A Woman Called Golda… a fitting portrait of another woman who lived life by her own rules.

watch the trailer: