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New Release Review - INGRID BERGMAN IN HER OWN WORDS

The story of the Swedish actress, as told through her diaries and letters.






Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Stig Bjorkman



In Her Own Words isn't going to surprise anyone with a prior knowledge of the Scandinavian star, proving if you wish to learn about a subject, approaching the source may not always be the best option. Bergman remains an enigma. Perhaps that's how it should be?



Swedish film critic Stig Bjorkman is best known for a trio of interview books - (Ingmar) Bergman on Bergman, Woody Allen on Woody Allen and Trier on von Trier - in which three of cinema's biggest names dissect their own work. He's also dabbled in filmmaking himself, having directed a series of narrative films in the '70s and '80s. Since then he's chosen to focus on documentary work, shining a light, as all good film critics should, on the careers of iconic filmmakers.

Here he focuses on his country's other great Bergman. Bjorkman blends home movie footage shot by Ingrid Bergman and friends with Alicia Vikander narrated extracts from the actress's personal letters and diary entries, giving us, theoretically, a unique insight into the psyche of one of the true screen legends.


In Her Own Words begins with the teenage diary scribbles of a young Bergman as she begins to forge an acting career in her native land. Her confidence is displayed early on as she writes of her self-awareness of being the most sought after star in Sweden. We follow Bergman as she departs for Hollywood, then on to Italy for her tumultuous years as life and working partner of director Roberto Rossellini, the doc ending soon after her collaboration with her namesake Ingmar in his 1978 drama Autumn Sonata.

If you're expecting a movie full of secret revelations, you'll be disappointed; Bergman's letters and diaries almost seem ghost written, rarely offering much in the way of a glimpse into Ingrid Bergman the human as opposed to Ingrid Bergman the icon. There are some delightful exceptions, such as her initial letter to Rossellini - whom she had fallen romantically for through his films alone - in which she offers her services, boasting of a fluency in English, German and France, along with the ability to translate 'I love you' into Italian. Imagine Rossellini's face upon reading that letter!


The actress's children, including Isabella Rossellini, are present for talking heads, but don't expect any betrayal of family revelations - they offer little beyond PR fluff, and there's a sense that there's a story being withheld here.

At almost two hours, Bjorkman's film does begin to outstay its welcome after a while. Nobody enjoys watching a stranger's home movies, even one as beautiful as Ingrid Bergman, and there's only so much grainy footage of the star messing around with her kids a viewer can take.


Fans of classic Hollywood will of course want to seek this one out, but despite drawing from her personal writings and footage, In Her Own Words isn't going to surprise anyone with a prior knowledge of the Scandinavian star, proving if you wish to learn about a subject, approaching the source may not always be the best option. Bergman remains an enigma. Perhaps that's how it should be?

Ingrid Bergman in Her Own Words is in cinemas August 12th.




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