Ingrid Bergman’s Swedish film

Ingrid Bergman always gave her characters an extremely persuasive dimension by radiating the happiness of someonewho is in love, but her characters were also troubled by anxiety and fear. Although love can be uncertain, such characters guarantee something that is even more rare: friendship and loyalty.

These days the famous beauty Ingrid Bergman is rarely mentioned in connection to Swedish cinema. She is known as an American actress whose most famous films include Hollywood classics such as Casablanca and three great films by Hitchcock. The six Italian films directed by her husband Roberto Rosellini are just spices added to the Bergman story: they tease those who want to ascribe the films greater value and intrigue lovers of scandal. When Ingrid Bergman married an Italian, she became an adulteress in the eyes of many Americans, and seemed to embrace Communism. For left-leaning Italian critics she was the reason their idol, Rosselini, was sidetracked from the holy path of neorealism.

Her career began in 1934 in her home country of Sweden, where she made ten films. During this time, she also acted in a German movie. Nevertheless, her acting career in Sweden is often described as a negligible but necessary phase that she had to endure in order to prepare herself for greater things. Moreover, her early Swedish films are not exactly masterpieces, having been made at the time of her biggest career crisis, during the switch from silent to sound films. These days we forget that at one time Swedish actresses had a broader appeal than their male counter-parts, so they became one of Sweden’s most popular exports. After Greta Garbo’s discovery, talent hunters’ eyes were set on Sweden and they managed to recruit, along with Bergman, many other actresses, though none as well known.

While still a student, the nineteen-year-old Ingrid Bergman made her acting debut at the Royal theatre in Stockholm. She appeared in several chamber melodramas typical of the cinema of that time, which are often called dialogue films since there is a lot of conversation in them -- thanks to the new marriage of sound and film. These films were very popular in Sweden partly because, as a rule, Swedes are a cultured nation. In a country with a historic theatre culture and a schooled audience, criminal, fantasy or adventure films would not play well. Such audiences adored chamber melodramas based on literary works concerned with great love themes and spiced with criminal elements.

Ingrid Bergman’s career developed very quickly. In her first film (The Count of the Old Town) she was a simple girl whose only role was to be the girlfriend of the hero. The beautiful, elegant and tall woman evoked a certain element of luxury, and in her next film Swedenhielms Family (1935) she was cast as the carefree daughter of a rich man. At this point, her breakthrough began: in Walpurgis Night (1935) she is in a relationship with a married man, which she continues in the next film, Intermezzo (1936), in which she plays not just an attractive girl but also a talented pianist who struggles with her love for a married violinist. She was paired with Gosta Ekman, Sweden’s leading heartthrob of the day, and under director Gustaf Molander’s firm hand Ingrid Bergman became the greatest Swedish film star.

As in all melodramas, with such characters always arise dilemmas and suffering. The dissolution of marriage in those times was always followed by remorse, and in the films A Woman's Face (1938) and June Night (1939) she was troubled by other sins from an unhappy and unsettled past. Whether such characters seem attractive or archaic, Ingrid Bergman always gave them an extremely persuasive dimension by playing characters that radiate the happiness of those who are in love but are, at the same time, troubled by anxiety and fear. Although love can be uncertain, such characters at least guarantee the existence of things that are rare and good: friendship and loyalty.

Her role in Intermezzo led to her discovery by David O. Selznick. Along with Vivien Leigh, (Gone with the Wind), in 1939 he discovered Ingrid Bergman, who made her Hollywood debut with Leslie Howard, (Ashley from Gone with the Wind), in the remake of Intermezzo. Four years later, she starred in Casablanca, playing a character similar to those she played in her Swedish beginnings. The Hollywood makeup did not change her at all.

She returned to Swedish cinema in 1978 with her last film, when she starred in Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata. (Ante Peterlić)