I never had the intention of staying in Sweden. That I knew from the beginning.
This documentary comes out of Bergman’s country of origin and purports to have a new twist because of an extensive treasure trove of letters and journals Bergman herself wrote, as well as interviews with all of Bergman’s children, from her various marriages. It’s an interesting enough movie; it starts strong and gets stronger, but ultimately kind of peters out. It’s interesting and entertaining to see Bergman’s early films in Sweden, starting with an appearance as an extra that is very obviously leaning and craning her neck in order to get her face into the shot. She already knows she wants to be a star. And the period dealing with her career in Hollywood is interesting, if you’re a film buff like me. After the movie gets done with Rossellini, it doesn’t have a whole lot on the ball, however, and the film kind of just slowly coasts to a stop instead of having a proper ending. The only real pleasure in the last third of the film is in a short section dedicated to Autumn Sonata, the film she did with film’s other illustrious Bergman, Ingmar. It’s fascinating to see her working in a completely different vein and style than her Hollywood films. But ultimately the film doesn’t have too much of a point; it doesn’t have any particular insights and it also isn’t able to make her story about something larger, the way some documentaries of this kind are able to do. The letters and diary entries are of some interest, and they’re also read, in the original Swedish with subtitles, by my girl, Alicia Vikander, so that’s cool. But I suppose the main pleasure of the film really is just seeing Bergman on the big screen, in clips from her films and behind the scenes materials. I’m not sure how the film would translate to a home viewing; we’re used to seeing Bergman on the small screen, I guess, and it’s the experience of watching her on the big screen that really brings home what seems to be the point of the film, to the degree it has one: she was beautiful, she was gifted, she was charismatic, she was brilliant in every way. That’s kind of enough, though more would have been appreciated. 3 stars.
tl;dr – documentary uses Bergman’s letters and journals, but fails to deliver any real insights; but there are pleasures to be had just from spending time with Bergman back on the big screen. 3 stars.