Throughout her lifetime, actress Ingrid Bergman spoke thousands of words from scripts that transported movie and theater audiences. She played the sassy barmaid who slowly realizes her intended meal ticket is a monster in “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” and in “Gaslight,” her translucent beauty and strength are harnessed to face a menacing husband. But she also spoke privately, reflecting about her craft and family, and the feature documentary “Ingrid Bergman in Her Own Words” by Stig Bjorkman captures the star in revelatory ways. The Rialto Pictures film, shown recently at the Cannes and New York Film Festivals, will debut on Long Island at the Plaza Cinema and Media Arts Center in Patchogue on Oct. 22.
It’s a coup for Plaza Cinema; the documentary opens in November for worldwide release for Oscar consideration, starting with Lincoln Plaza Cinemas in New York City; it then travels to Los Angeles in December. But it’s here in Patchogue first.
“It’s an honor and a privilege that we’re getting a chance to sneak preview this film,” said Plaza MAC’s cofounder Catherine Oberg, still in awe at the chance.
The film will be shown at a cocktail reception fundraiser that celebrates Bergman’s centennial year at the Mediterranean Manor on that date.
Bergman’s daughter, actress Isabella Rossellini of Bellport, a Plaza Cinema honorary board member, will attend the screening.
Bergman embued her roles with delicately visceral portrayals and was a memorable film presence with a longevity that won her three Oscars, two Emmys and a Tony Award over almost five decades. While her characters paired her with greats like Cary Grant and Gregory Peck, what she is best known for was the character Ilse, who must choose between two good men during World War II, in “Casablanca,” a romantic drama about ideals and their importance. She died on Aug. 29, 1982, ironically her 67th birthday, from breast cancer.
Oberg explained that Bergman’s films will be shown at Plaza MAC to further celebrate the centennial, starting with “Gaslight” on Oct. 10 and 15, “Notorious” on Oct. 24 and 29, “Anastasia” on Nov. 7 and 12, and “Murder on the Orient Express,” on Dec. 5 and 10. Rossellini will be present at most of the scheduled dates along with St. Joseph’s College film studies professor Dr. Peter Mascuch for question-and-answer discussions.
Anyone who attended last year’s “Casablanca” showing with Rossellini and Mascuch at Plaza Cinema knows they’re in for a treat.
Rossellini spoke with the Islip Bulletin the morning she was headed to Stockholm, her mother’s birthplace, for the premiere of the film, which was shown at The Dramaten, or The Royal Dramatic Theater, and received a standing ovation, she said.
“There are interviews with my mother, readings of her diaries and letters,” Rossellini said, adding that Bjorkman had access to Bergman’s personal papers and hired actress Alicia Vikander for her mother’s voiceover. There were also home movies and interviews with friends like Sigourney Weaver.
Rossellini has a twin, Isatta, and a brother, Roberto Rossellini, children Bergman had with film director and screenwriter Roberto Rossellini. Pia Lindstrom is a daughter from Bergman’s marriage to Petter Lindstrom.
“She took many photos, but also took home movies of us as children and behind the scenes of the films she made,” said Rossellini. Bergman’s archives are housed at Wesleyan University. “I told Stig there was a lot of material and a documentary and a portrait of an artist came out of it,” she said, adding that Bjorkman began his project a year and a half ago.
Rossellini liked the resulting film. “It was a very truthful portrait of my mother,” she said. “She was very independent and dedicated to her career and she was condemned for not being at home more and being married three times. In the documentary, Stig interviewed the four children and we all have different reactions.”
It was pointed out that no one gets the love they think they should have as a child.
Rossellini was reflective. “What I came away with is that there’s no right way to be a mother,” she said. “There is a tremendous advantage to having a career like hers and it is also a source for turmoil, and when Stig interviews us, there’s a negative and a positive. The four children reacted differently.”
Rossellini said she followed in her mother’s footsteps and added that growing up she had a bad back that required surgeries. “She was with me when I was healing,” she said of her fond memories.
Bergman’s father, Justus Samuel Bergman, who raised Bergman until his death, owned a photography shop and captured his daughter’s image as a youngster with a motion picture camera. “Stig showed them,” Rossellini said.
“She was born in 1915 so it’s quite extraordinary to have these images. She lost her mother at 2 and her father at 12 and when she started to act she found happiness again. And she became so attached to filmmaking because it took her away from her unhappiness.
“What mother had is that she worked in five languages; that’s unusual. She said, ‘I want to belong everywhere.’ That is really what characterizes her more than anybody.”
Research for the documentary also produced a book, “Ingrid Bergman: A Life in Pictures,” which will be available at the Plaza Cinema events and signed by Rossellini.
Rossellini was asked how many Ingrid Bergman honors were scheduled.
“I’m going to London, New York, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, Los Angeles,” she said, not missing a beat, “and Patchogue!”
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