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The Home Movies of a Hollywood Legend

Ingrid Bergman’s personal archives tell the story of her incredible life in a new documentary

Silver screen icon Ingrid Bergman would have turned 100 this year. To pay homage to the Academy Award winner’s legacy, director Stig Björkman—with the help of Bergman’s children—compiled her never-before-seen home movies, photographs and personal diary entries. The result is Ingrid Bergman – In Her Own Words, a documentary that tells the amazing story of her love affair with film. The beautiful vintage home movies—many of which were shot by Bergman herself—span the entire globe, showcasing her home in Sweden and time in California, Italy, London and Paris. In between behind-the-scenes footage and clips from her classic films, which include Casablanca and Anastasia, there are intimate moments she shared with her four children and the ever-present camera.

Ingrid Bergman with her children. Photo courtesy of Rialto Pictures/Mantaray Film/Wesleyan Cinema Archives.

Her oldest daughter, Pia Lindstrom, grew up largely without her after Bergman became pregnant with the child of Italian filmmaker Roberto Rossellini, moving to Italy and leaving Lindstrom and her father in California. The American public’s reaction to the scandal was so damning that the actress did not return to the United States for a number of years. Her subsequent marriage to Rossellini was passionate and full of artistic collaboration during the early lives of the couples’ three children, Roberto, Ingrid and Isabella. Eventually, though, Rossellini and Bergman divorced, and Roberto, Ingrid and Isabella also experienced separation from their mother. In the film, Isabella Rossellini describes a time in her childhood after her parents’ divorce when she and her siblings lived in a “children’s home,” where neither parent was present.

Ingrid Bergman filming a home movie. Photo by Andre Lefebvre Courtesy Rialto Pictures/Mantaray Film/Wesleyan Cinema Archives.

The thread that connects the documentary, however, is that Bergman lived and breathed film and acting. Her passion is made most evident by the way each of her children, clearly harboring no resentment, speaks so fondly of her. They understood and accepted that she needed to be creating in order to feel alive.

Ingrid Bergman while filming Joan of Arc. Photo courtesy of Rialto Pictures/Mantaray Film/Wesleyan Cinema Archives.

In fact, it was her daughter Isabella’s idea to celebrate her mother’s life and career through this documentary. When director Stig Björkman found himself sitting next to her at a Berlin restaurant, he recalls her turning to him and saying, “Shall we make a film about Mama?” 

“That was the first time I met her,” says Björkman, “and what do you say to such a proposal? I said yes.” 

Ingrid Bergman – In Her Own Words opens at New York’s Lincoln Plaza Cinemas on November 13.