“Sometimes, children aren’t that interesting,” says Pia Lindström, Ingrid Bergman’s estranged eldest daughter. Lindström, though visibly stung, is defending her mother’s eventual abandonment of her and her father for the more glamorous lifestyle promised by second husband Roberto Rossellini. Naturally, if the Swedish-born screen icon felt out of place in Hollywood, the Italian cinema scene would prove just as foreign to her, and soon she was frequently ditching her second set of kids to shoot back in her native Sweden. Her daughter Isabella, though, feels the same inclination to forgive: “She was bored with us, but that didn’t bother me. I just wanted to have as much fun as she did.”
By the end of Stig Björkman’s vivid and enlightening documentary, Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words, most audiences will relate to Bergman’s restlessness, her never feeling at home in one place. Damaging as her actions sometimes were (the affair with Rossellini led to a virtual Hollywood blacklisting for over a decade and a paparazzi onslaught that terrified her kids), Bergman was by no means an unloving mother, just a tortured one.
Bergman’s letters, addressed to her family, to God, sometimes to herself, are recited here in rather chaotic fashion, not chronologically, to match her mindset. She lost her parents and a sibling at a devastatingly young age, and it can be concluded here that her career and her globetrotting were desperate, fruitless attempts to fill that void.
But there’s plenty of levity, too — rare glimpses of Bergman behind the scenes, practicing her American accent or fake-wrestling with Ingmar Bergman (in Autumn Sonata). Funniest moment: Bergman’s astutely describing Humphrey Bogart as “not a typical glamour boy.” (Sam Weisberg)
Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words
Directed by Stig Björkman
Rialto Pictures & Pretty Pictures
Opens November 13, Lincoln Plaza Cinemas