Hollywood is and always has been, a hypocritical place. From it’s earliest days the all powerful studio bosses put out an image of their stars as wholesome, clean living, family people, who’s sole purpose was to bring entertainment and fun to the masses who went to the cinema each week for a few hours escapism from the drag of their everyday lives. Now, with instant access to the worldwide web, the secret lives of stars are no longer private, readily available for everyone to read on-line at the touch of a button. In the golden age of Hollywood however, the oft seedy, real lives of the stars were kept hidden from their adoring fans, most of whom would never have imagined that movie stars weren’t perfect, both on and off the silver screen. With this in mind, when one of their idols was revealed to be anything less than godlike – generally as a result of a falling out with the powers that be, or simply that their actions could no longer be covered up – their resultant fall from grace was often quick, catastrophic (in terms of ruining their career) and long lasting.

Such was the case with the beautiful and talented Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman, star of such legendary productions as Casablanca (1942) opposite Humphrey Bogart and the Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpieces Spellbound (1945) and Notorious (1946). If ever there was an example of an actress who’s career was effected irrevocably by the vagaries of a fickle public and hypocritical studio hierarchy, Bergman was her, as revealed in the new documentary Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words released on DVD by SODA Pictures.

Directed by Swedish documentary maker Stig Björkman and narrated by Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, this fascinating film aims – through interviews with Bergman’s family and friends, spliced with archival newsreel footage and fragments from the actresses own home movies – to reveal the true face of this oft misunderstood star. Charting her early life in pre-war Sweden, via her budding Hollywood career, to her later exile from Tinseltown when she left her first husband, a dentist called Petter Aron Lindström, to marry Italian director Roberto Rossellini, and later the theatrical entrepreneur Lars Schmidt, Björkman’s film reveals a woman who, though clearly loving her children, extended family and work, didn’t let anything stand in her way when faced with a path which she felt, rightly or wrongly, the urge to follow.

Eschewing the usual ‘insightful’ gossip from self-styled experts and acquaintances, the film lets Bergman speak for herself through her letters and writings, as well as the opinions and thoughts (not always complimentary) on their mother from her children including Pia Lindström and Isabella Rossellini. When other big screen names – such as actresses Sigourney Weaver and Liv Ullmann – share their memories on appearing alongside Bergman, their participation is as much to provide insight into working with her, as to lay on any sugary sweet praise or awe struck idol worship.

What lifts Björkman’s film above the usual, shallow and sycophantic Hollywood biog, is the fact it shows Bergman for what she really was – human. Undoubtedly a ‘star’ in the old fashioned Movieland sense of the word, she is none-the-less revealed here as having all the same desires, shortcomings and failings as anyone else. Something for which she was ultimately made to pay a heavy price.

As well as the film itself, the release from SODA Pictures comes with various extras including trailers, deleted and extended interviews with the Rossellini family and actresses Sigourney Weaver and Liv Ullmann and Super 8 home movies shot by Ingrid Bergman.

 

Director: Stig Björkman
Writers: Stig Björkman, Dominika Daubenbüchel, Stina Gardell
Stars: Alicia Vikander, Ingrid Bergman, Pia Lindström, Isabella Rossellini,
Sigourney Weaver, Liv Ullmann
Runtime: 114 mins
Country: Sweden

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

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