“I can say that I'm not one of those people who likes to look back,” Ingrid Bergman’s eldest daughter, Pia Lindström, says on the phone before a special screening of the new documentary Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words.
“I don’t really enjoy going back. I like to stay today and maybe tomorrow. There are people who seem to want to go back and hash out their childhood grievances or something, and I'm just not that person. I think things happen and we just move on.”
Lindström - who, at 77, has a long, Emmy-winning career as a television journalist behind her - has a well-earned right to this way of looking at her past. Bergman was an iconic actress - the star of Casablanca, For Whom the Bell Tolls and Gaslight, to name a few - but her family history is more complicated. When Lindström was a child, Bergman was involved in a long and very public international scandal when she left her husband Petter Lindström for Italian director Roberto Rossellini; Pia didn’t see her mother again until she was in her late teens, a meeting spoken about in the film.
It's just one of many intensely personal moments shown in the documentary. In fact, it’s sometimes surprising how much director Stig Bjorkman had to work with: there are intimate home videos of Ingrid as a young girl, excerpts from her memoir My Story, footage of her earliest interviews - often in Swedish - and interviews with her children Pia Lindström and Ingrid, Roberto and Isabella Rosselini.
“I thought it was very kind,” says Lindström. “It didn’t have an axe to grind, it didn’t have a point of view. It just simply showed a person’s life and how she saw it.”
Lindströms words are just as introspective as the film: “I think you can see from the beginning why she would have chosen a world of make believe and pretend and theater and film, if you understand that she by 14 had lost both her parents and went to live with an aunt who died in her arms,” she says.
“If you’ll remember, her father was a photographer so she was very used to posing for him. He did lots of films of her, lots of photographs of her dressed in costumes where she flirted or looked serious or wore glasses and all different kind of things, so she looked through the lens at the person who loved her. And her mother had already died.
“For me, what I understand, is that is the area she was the most comfortable, was looking through a lens or someone that she loved looking at her through a lens, and being too flirtatious, funny, sad, whatever the emotion was that she was able to do with her eyes. For her, as for some actresses, the make believe is better than real life. You’re more comfortable on the movie set, you’re more comfortable with the theater people. Having your own family sometimes is very difficult. Dealing with those issues is very complex and sometimes there isn’t a good resolution.”
The film’s only potential drawback is that, as Lindström says, “it misses the last chapter of her life. This is just a section of it, and I think that’s very well done and very good.”
I ask Lindström if she’d like to see that last chapter onscreen, and her answer is decisive: “No! No! Stories don’t end that way, do they?” she asks. “No, no. Stories end, ‘and then they lived happily ever after.’ You know how the story goes, there’s an end, it’s not, ‘and then they got sick, and that happened,’ no, no, no, no. Absolutely not. That’s a whole other thing. No.
“People don’t have to know everything, do they?” she asks, finally. “You can withhold a little bit.”
Photos via Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words and Flickr. Top photo: Ingrid Bergman and Pia Lindström.
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