From marital gossips to on-screen magnetism, a documentary about Ingrid Bergman praises relevant actors who consistently defied expectations

Nearly 20 years ago, I went to stay with my husband in a house owned by the family of Roberto Rossellini, the great neorealist Italian film director. We invested our periods as you do when you find yourself in an idyllic hideout in the Italian sunshine: learning; lying by the puddle; watching the dawn through the trees. And I thought about Ingrid Bergman, who must have visited this secluded villa at a time when her life was in free fall.

Its hard it is now time imagine the kind of gossip Bergman induced when she became pregnant with Rossellinis child, while continuing to married to her first partner Petter Lindstrm. She wasnt exactly a partner, she was a father, and had left her daughter Pia behind when she went off to Italy to work with Rossellini. The cruelty was scalding. Bergman news jolts Hollywood like an A Bomb screeched one newspaper headline, neatly blending two of the most important news items of 1949.

In the US, religious groups began a campaign to censor her films on the grounds that they extol adultery. In Italy, she and Rossellini were followed everywhere by paparazzi, their friends for the rest of their stormy life together.

I was a danger for American womanhood, she told an interviewer, years later. Even my voice over the radio was supposed to be dangerous. Of trend I was hurt, but I didnt think that what I had done was so much other people business … If you dont like the implementation of its, you can walk out, but to criticise people private life, I thought was wrong.

That rebellious statement of intent is is mentioned in Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words , a brand-new documentary film directed by Stig Bjrkman that tells the story of one of Hollywoods most enduring adepts. It gleans on her diaries, words and interrogations, interspersed with dwelling movies, and peeks of the actor in all her screen honour, from her Swedish introduction in 1935 to her Hollywood heyday in the 1940 s to her final personas practically 40 years later. It is a uncovering insight into a woman who routinely withstood expectations.

Watch the official trailer for Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words

In her first American screen test, in bleached-out colouring and stillnes, with no makeup as the clapper committee extols, she glints. It is as if she is in possession of trade secrets and that knowledge decorates her from within, as she glances instantly at the camera, or smiles with a warmth who are able to thaw a Swedish winter. Its a signaling of all that is to come. If “youre thinking about” Bergman on screen, in Casablanca , Notorious or Gaslight , it is that gleam that first comes to mind.

In part this was a simple matter of her grace. Daniel Selznick, son of the powerful David O who firstly cleaned Bergman away to Hollywood, told her biographer Charlotte Chandler: There is no one I have ever gratified, of any age, of any generation, that took ones breath away at every find the way she did. The colour, the cheeks, the buttock, the ears, the snout, the eyes, the body of a goddess. And she was just absolutely unselfconscious. Gregory Peck, her co-star in Hitchocks Spellbound , suggested that she was even more beautiful away from the studio cameras a judgment vindicated by the residence movie footage that demonstrates her tighten with family and friends.

But there is some other mysterious power at work. From the very first, she was confident in front of a camera, and it is Pia Lindstrm the daughter she abandoned when she ran off with Rossellini who offers a psychological cause for her mothers fascinating impact on screen. Bergmans mother had died when she was two, so she was brought up by her parent, a photographer, whom she adored, until he extremely died when she was 13.

Love would come right through that lens, indicates Lindstrm. She was looking through that lens and she is looking at her dear dead papa, and she would flirt and play with him and constitute with him. She was completely cozy with the camera and knew how to pose.

Bergman herself was aware of her talent. She was a poor little orphan girl, lonely and bereft, yet filming drew her feel alive. Theres a photograph of her going to her first ever undertaking as an extra that is notable not only for her astounding loveliness, but for the sheer sparkle of her pose as she peers along the line of waiting hopefuls, searching outwards and sends. I desire the freedom of the media I feel in front of the camera, she said.

Bergman
Photograph: Soda Pictures

But she was a dab hand behind a camera, too, inheriting from her parent a desire to record countries around the world and the people around her. She filmed her honeymoon with Petter, and when she left him abruptly she wrote saying she didnt require many of the fortunes she had left behind. The only problem will be our 16 mm cinema. Maybe you will give it to me so I can see what I looked like in my youth.

That desire to preserve each aspect of her life in photographs and footage has left Bjrkman a resource of substance on which to draw; in this private footage you check her falling in love with Rossellini, stroking his head tenderly as they speak; you watch the three children they had together growing quite; you picture their fright as their parents marriage is falling apart. Later, you watch the sadness cross Bergmans face as she climbs into an ambulance when her daughter Isabella is diagnosed with scoliosis.

But just as uncovering are the characters and journals that Bergman likewise continued, rich in self-knowledge and the honest conflict of the contradictions in her attribute. Writing to a pal, when she is experiencing the first blush of success in her Hollywood career, she describes her anxiety at not working for four months which is two months too long. She is at home with Petter and Pia, but confesses: Exclusively half of me is alive. The other half is jam-pack away in a suitcase suffocating. What should I do?

She has an affair with Robert Capa, the struggle photographer, and her free spirit flies. She tries to be a good partner and to knit at home, but the siren call of something different propels her onwards. With Rossellini, it is his effort she falls in love with firstly; she admires Rome, Open City and writes him a bold proposal. If you ever necessity a Swedish actor who speaks the best English and a little German, who can make herself understood in French and can only say ti amo in Italian, then Ill come and make a film with you.

Years afterwards she excuses his appeal more fully. It was a combination of passion that I fell in love with a being who was so different from any other man I had ever known, and it was my wearines in Hollywood I wanted to do something that they didnt expect me to do. When its relation with Rossellini broke down, and she began to think about returning to Hollywood, she was still was decided to do the kind of movies I feel comfy with. Success mattered greatly to Bergman, but not at any price.

At the same time, as the movie makes clear, though her children mattered to her intensely, she was prepared to leave them to haunt her busines. Her priorities were not those expected. If you took acting away from me I would stop breathing, she said. She declared she had missed a lot, by leaving not just one child but her second change of children to be brought up principally by others. I do regret it, but I dont believe they tolerated, she said.

That complexity the genuine expression of a woman who knew her own fallibility, of someone who loved and lost but never complained constructs Bergman, who died of cancer, aged 67, in 1982, a peculiarly admirable Hollywood star. She was a pioneer before her period; protective and constrained by her loveliness, she navigated ever onwards, brave and strong.

There is a rose appointed after her, which I have in my plot. It is deep red, softly smelled and nearly too perfect in shape and flesh. It blooms for a very long time, lingering long after other heydays molted their petals. There could not be a better tribute to an actor who is always worth remembering.

Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words is at the BFI Southbank, London SE1, from 12 August and then at selected cinema. At the BFI, the cinema will be accompanied by a mini season, Ingrid Bergman on Screen . bfi.org.uk

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