Stig Björkman has the right ingredients to chronicle a psychological side of acclaimed actress Ingrid Bergman in his award-winning documentary, Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words. But then, almost as if another director hijacked the project, the film chooses a generically trodden formula.
Before the change of pace, Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words is about the hidden struggle a performer endures when there’s distance between family and dreams. The documentary also records mixed feelings an actor encounters through long-running productions and questionable desires. It feels as if Björkman is using Bergman to show audiences that these conflicts can happen to anyone in the industry – no matter how unknown or revered they are.
Considering the filmmaker is using tools like old film footage and Bergman’s letters to home and intimate diary entries to deliver this information (which are impressively edited to boot), he has the right content to form this experienced, exhausted point-of-view even though the Swedish actress has long since passed away. Bergman’s written work is recited by Ex Machina’s Alicia Vikander – the audience won’t be able to tell a difference. Vikander is poised as she captures Ingrid’s elegance, and Björkman is able to use the narration as a baseline to competently piece together his film into a multi-layered portrait of someone who used their convincing performance work in real life. The help of Bergman’s children to fill in some blanks is also much appreciated, especially from a passionate and enamoured Isabella Rossellini.
There isn’t a problem with Björkman wanting to fall back on a generic mould for his biography, but skimming and using clips of Ingrid Bergman’s life isn’t enough to make that movie with. To tell the story of someone’s life, movie goers need a more thorough look through her life and those who were acquainted with her. If the filmmaker wanted to detail Ingrid’s romances, elation, and distress, more patience and research is required. However, considering the film is already close to two hours, I don’t know how much longer this film could’ve been without making the audience antsy.
Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words is an example of a great film that becomes a decent doc by the end credits.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie