If you’ve yet to acquaint yourself with one of cinema’s greatest actresses and icons, Ingrid Bergman, then this is the film for you, and there’s enough in it to keep Bergman aficionados happy too. Taking the bio-doc style now familiar from works like Senna and Marley where a narrative structure is favoured over didactic commentary, director Stig Björkman presents a moving, chronological portrait of the life and work of Bergman (though the emphasis in this documentary is much more on the “life”). There are three key elements of Björkman’s narrative artillery: current Swedish star, Alicia Vikander, reading Bergman’s letters and diary entries; Bergman herself in voiceover from later in her life; and the prodigious amount of material (photographs and home-movie footage) made available from the family archive.
To those familiar with Bergman’s work, the documentary might frustrate interest in how her films were realised and received at the time. The documentary’s greater focus on the life of Bergman does have its rewards though. Firstly, there’s the interesting notion that her film career and nomadic life were defined by her early orphaning – her daughter, Pia Lindström, even opines that her radiance in front of the camera was some form of primal communion with the father of her infancy. Secondly, there’s the absolutely delightful anecdote about Bergman’s first days in Hollywood, acclimatising with legendary producer David Selznick. The clip of Bergman’s staggeringly luminous screen test for her first Hollywood film, Intermezzo, is worth the admission price alone.
Perhaps there’s nothing radically new to those with some knowledge of the Ingrid Bergman story from numerous other biographical TV portraits, but this is still a worthy port-of-call for all curious about one of cinema’s greatest ever icons.
DIRECTOR: Stig Björkman
WRITERS: Stig Björkman, Stina Gardell, Dominika Daubenbüchel
SYNOPSIS: A study of the life and work of great Swedish film actress, Ingrid Bergman.