Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman would have been 100 years old on Aug 29 this year and in Sweden it is time to say “Grattis!”, Happy Birthday! At the Swedish Film Institute, a special tribute was made in her honor at the “Cinemateket” in Stockholm. The celebration included a reception and screening of “A Woman’s Face” (1938) directed by Gustaf Molander based on a play by Francis de Croisset – “Il etait une fois”.
On Aug 24, the Swedish premiere of “Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words” directed by Stig Björkman was held at the “Royal Dramatic Theater” in the presence of her grown children: Isotta Ingrid, Isabella and Roberto Rossellini and Pia Lindström. They were united in Stockholm together for the first time. Ingrid Bergman auditioned for the royal dramatic school at 18 and soon after was offered a part in a film. She was told that she never could return to the school if she took it but, as she was later to say, her life belonged to show business.
Throughout September, several of Ingrid Bergman’s films will be screened at Cinemateket. The early films of Ingrid Bergman including “A Woman’s Face” were made at a time when Sweden was a poor country. In this particular film, she plays Anna Holm, a woman whose face has been disfigured and who falls in with bad company. She has become embittered due to her affliction and becomes the head of group of blackmailers and works to extort money from the wealthy. She arrives at the home of a plastic surgeon to collect money from his wife who is having an affair. The doctor discovers her trying to flee the scene and decides to show compassion and even reconstruct her face. The strength of Bergman’s acting for a young woman of 23 is exceptional.
There are many strong features in the film such as the hard décor of the interiors with heavy draperies and carpets, thick fur coats for the cold winters and dramatic nature scenes of runaway sleds on the ice and raging waterfalls at Forsa in Hälsingland, Sweden. The film screened at the “Venice Film Festival” in 1938 was nominated for the “Mussolini Cup” for best foreign film. Gustaf Molander received a special recommendation.
By the time Bergman made “A Woman’s Face” she had a string of successes and was in a position to bargain for parts. The Swedish studios didn’t think that she should play a disfigured woman and wanted a less attractive woman to play the role. But Bergman wanted the part and knew that people would see it because of the outcome of having her face reconstructed – and she was right.
Swedish Television (SVT) telecast “Casablanca” on Aug 29, which surprisingly was not one of Bergman’s favorite films. She didn’t feel her character Ilsa Lund was an interesting part and was surprised she became so popular because of it. But she understood that it was a well-made film.
Ingrid Bergman’s decision to leave Hollywood and make films with Italian director Roberto Rossellini was due to his fresh approach to filmmaking which included shooting on location and using non-actors that was typical of the “Italian New Wave”. One of the films in the Swedish Film Institute Bergman program was “Europe 51” directed by Roberto Rossellini in 1952. Rossellini’s idea was to show what it would have been like for St. Francis if he lived in modern day times. Ingrid Bergman plays Irene Girard, the wife of a wealthy industrialist whose young son kills himself. She is only able to survive by helping those who are in need in poor Italian neighborhoods. She abandons her family and lives only to serve others. Because her behavior is regarded as bizarre for a woman of her standing, her family puts her into a mental institution for observation. The people she has helped cannot understand this and believe that she is a saint.
Ingrid Bergman was a versatile actress who acted in films in several languages with a broad repertoire of roles including “Anastasia” (1956), the lost Russian duchess, “Joan of Arc” (1948) and (1954), a psychiatrist in “Spellbound”(1945) and a nun in “The Bells of Saint Mary” (1945). She is regarded as one of Sweden’s most famous and talented actresses of world class.