Seven-time Oscar nominee and three-time Oscar winner, Ingrid Bergman is one of the best-known and most beloved actresses of all-time with a fifty year acting career behind her. She is widely regarded as a cinematic icon, but documentarian Stig Bjorkman’s In Her Own Words puts that persona aside and instead focuses on the woman herself. This documentary feels like a treasure trove of Ingrid’s most personal memories and views on life and cinema thanks to well-recorded documentation from Bergman’s diaries, journals, personal letters home videos and photographs. Most importantly though is that we get interviews with her four children, who help shed fascinating insight onto a remarkable woman who wanted to live her own life, regardless of what society perceived her in the world of paparazzi.
This documentary perfectly shows the ambition, the determination and drive that Ingrid possessed. At one point she says, “no one can have everything”, and it’s obvious through her actions and words that acting was her true passion and what helped bring her to life whenever she was on screen or on stage. It didn’t take long enough for her to find her true calling and unleash her true adventurous nature. We don’t get any real depth or insight into the films she starred in like Casablanca or her time with Alfred Hitchcock, but we do get an extremely solid and informative understanding of Ingrid as a person. We also learn of her children’s views on her and it is here that we discover they viewed her as a fun friend rather than a nurturing mother.
This is perhaps the most impactful aspect on Ingrid’s timeline as the four adult children recall all the extended periods they endured without their mother, followed only by memorably fun stints together. Naturally, over time they came to terms with the fact that Ingrid frequently chose the path of pursuing her dreams of following her acting career as opposed to spending more time with them and being a close mother. Despite loving them dearly as evident in her own letters, Ingrid herself said that she belonged more to “the make-believe world of theatre and film”, and it’s understandable how that can affect someone. Ingrid’s words are powerfully thought provoking and insightful, but they are beautifully realised thanks to Alicia Vikander. Vikander is quite possibly the Ingrid Bergman of her generation, having always been a mesmerising, ethereal screen presence (thanks to films like A Royal Affair and Ex Machina) and her angelic voice breathes life to Ingrid’s inner thoughts and feelings.
In Her Own Words is a fascinating and beautifully realised portrait of a woman who made an impact on the world of Hollywood, as well as her own personal life and family. The film neither defends, nor does it celebrate, her free spirit and optimism, but it instead reports it, showing us that this was indeed a woman who lived life by her own rules, even if it turned out to be an extraordinary one.
Dir: Stig Björkman
Scr: Stig Björkman, Stina Gardell, Dominika Daubenbuchel
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Jeanine Basinger, Pia Lindström, Fiorella Mariani, Ingrid Rossellini, Isabella Rossellini, Roberto Ingmar Rossellini, Liv Ullmann, Sigourney Weaver
Prd: Stina Gardell
DOP: Malin Korkeasalo, Eva Dahlgren
Music: Michael Nyman, Eva Dahlgren
Run time: 114 mins
Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words will be released on DVD on the 19th September.