Hello dear readers! Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve published anything on this blog. Sorry! Today, I’m back with something I hope you’ll find interesting. Last semester, at university, I had a course named Transnational Approaches to Cinema. We had to choose a “transnational” subject to work on and this was done in three steps during the duration of the course. We created maps representing the transnational aspects of the subject and these were accompanied by texts. So, the final result was a synthesis of a all that. I chose Ingrid Bergman as a subject and I couldn’t have thought of a more fascinating one. The following text won’t only help you understand Ingrid Bergman’s transnationalism, but also how she, somehow, became a “citizen of the world”.
Keep in mind that this is an academical text so the writing style differs from the one I normally use on my blogs, but, of course, I still think you’ll enjoy it and learn a lot!
To help you understand the concept of transnationalism (because I’m conscious not everybody is familiar with it), here is a brief definition from Wikipedia. And actually, despite the source, it’s a rather good one. I could have written my own, but I think it would have resulted in a long text and that’s not what we want. It’s a complex concept!
“Transnationalism is a social phenomenon and scholarly research agenda grown out of the heightened interconnectivity between people and the receding economic and social significance of boundaries among nation states” (wikipedia)
But of course, the best way to understand it is with examples. So here comes Ingrid!
Map 1: MOVING PICTURES – INGRID BERGMAN ACROSS THE WORLD
Swedish born actress Ingrid Bergman could be one of the best examples of “transnational” stars. Indeed, she built herself an important career in different places around the world such as Sweden, Germany, USA, France, Italy, UK, Denmark, and the state of Israel. This first moving images map shows Ingrid’s various moves from one country to another and the reasons for these. As one can observe, these were of various natures: political situation (the rise of Nazism and the imminent war are among the reasons why she decided to definitely go to the USA in 1941); personal (her desire to explore new horizons) or purely professionals (her contract with the UFA in Germany in 1938, her desire to work with Rossellini, or the necessity to shoot a certain movie in a different place). But Ingrid doesn’t remain a “transnational” actress for the only idea that she was moving to several places for her work. It’s interesting to know that the Swedish actress played different types of nationalities all along her career. Apart from Swedish and Americans characters, Ingrid Bergman played Spanish, British, Italo-Romanian, French, Lithuanian, German, Russian, Polish, and Israeli women. Somehow, her Swedish Identity was lost among all these characters and different nationality.
One of the best examples of transnational films starring Ingrid Bergman would be The Inn of the Sixth Happiness. Indeed, in this 1958’s film directed by Mark Robson, Ingrid Bergman plays an English character (Gladys Aylward). The story starts in London, but it mostly takes place in China. However, the movie was not shot in China, but in Wales. This film about the real Gladys Aylward was an American production despite not really having any obvious American elements in its plot. British actor Robert Donat and German actor Curd Jürgens were also part of the distribution. The first one played a mandarin and the second one, a half-Asian, half -European man.
One can understand, from this map, that Ingrid Bergman often had the desire to explore different horizons in order to develop her work and her acting skills. Even if she had to move to the USA for security reasons, this couldn’t be an obstacle to her career but simply a new personal challenge. In their article “General Introduction: What Is Transnational Cinema?” Elizabeth Ezra and Terry Rowden describe Hollywood as a place that influences and that is influenced by cultural exchanges. They list some transnational stars who have been working in the capital of cinema and, therefore, the American film Industry becomes a universal place that attracts people from movie industries all around the world. Hollywood, somehow, plays the role of a filter and it seems to give people international recognition. In other words, the concept of transnationalism can bring international fame. Later in the text, the two authors raise an interesting point: transnational distributions allow movies to circulate more freely. Indeed, if we look at Ingrid Bergman’s case, this one was born in Stockholm in 1915 and, after studying at the Royal Dramatic School, she became a well-established actress in her own country. Movies such as A Woman’s Face and Intermezzo (the original 1936’s version) allowed her to be noticed in the USA. She also had a short career in Germany when she accepted a contract of three films with the UFA. She, however, made only one film there as the political situation was too unstable and her then-husband, Petter Lindstrom, preferred her to come back working in Sweden for her own safety. All this to say that being an established star in Sweden, she probably was no stranger to the people of her native country when she worked in Hollywood. So, surely, viewers of Sweden were seeing Ingrid Bergman’s work in the USA from another perspective than the American audience was seeing her.
In relation to what was previously said about Ingrid traveling to different places and playing characters with various nationalities, Ezra and Rowden write that “[i]n much transnational cinema, identities are necessarily deconstructed and reconstructed along the lines of a powering dynamic based on mobility.” Indeed, was Ingrid Bergman only Swedish or was she a citizen of the world? I also believe that her identity was lost at one point in her life. Her move to Italy could be a good example of that. As it is written on my map, Ingrid Bergman first went to work in Italy to fulfill her desire to work under the direction of Roberto Rossellini. Eventually, both developed a love-relation during the filming of Stromboli and Ingrid had to go back to the USA to divorce Petter. If she came back working in Italy and other European countries, it’s not only because Rossellini was to become her second husband, but also because she wasn’t welcomed to the USA anymore. But it’s interesting to notice that, in all the movies made under the direction of Rossellini, Ingrid never played an Italian woman, but only characters with nationalities that were close to her own one (Swedish). So, in a symbolical way, Ingrid Bergman made a new life in Italy but without being completely part of it.
The reason why Ingrid didn’t immediately move to the USA to start a career and waited around five years after the beginning of her career in Sweden is mostly due to language. Ingrid worked in Germany as German was her second language, but the idea to go work in other countries such a France or USA (where there was an important movie industry), wasn’t among the first possibilities as Ingrid wasn’t familiar with the national languages. So, one can observe that some factors such as the one previously mentioned can, somehow, prevent the migrations and slow down an eventual transnationalism. But, when David O’Selznick wanted to work with Ingrid on a remake of her Swedish success Intermezzo, this was only a way for Ingrid to expend her talent and develop it. In the USA, Ruth Robert was her English teacher and Ingrid was able to work in a new language. Ingrid was part of these European people who moved to Hollywood before or during the Second World War. In Thomas Elsaesser text’s, “Ethnicity, Authencity, and Exile: A Counterfeit Trade? German Filmmakers in Hollywood“, we understand that the reasons for these people to go to Hollywood weren’t only political, but also professional. In Ingrid’s case, it was both, but the woman always moved from one place to another and couldn’t limit herself to stay in an artificial place like Hollywood to develop and understand her characters. Indeed, on the map, we notice that, in 1948, Ingrid Bergman traveled to France in order to study the historical figure of Joan of Arc that she would be playing in Victor Fleming film. Yes, the film that takes place in France was shot in USA and Ingrid was a Swedish woman playing a French heroine, but it’s by traveling a by establishing herself as a transnational star that she built herself as great recognition.
Ingrid Bergman’s transnational role was a complex one and the next maps will help us understand it better and on different perspectives.
Map 2- GLOBAL INFLUENCE – BUILDING INGRID BERGMAN’S IMAGE
It is interesting that, in his Ingrid Bergman series, Andy Warhol chose to paint a portrait of Ingrid in one of her early Swedish film, A Woman’s Face (Gustaf Molander, 1938). By choosing a film that was made 45 years before the creation of this artwork, the artist sort of allowed Ingrid to cross the borders and gave her an iconic image as he did with so many of his subjects. Being a very commercial painter, Andy Warhol sort of “commercialized”, or “capitalized” the image of Ingrid Bergman as a Swedish actress, her original nationality. Ingrid (With Hat) illustrates a film that deals with beauty, aesthetics and cosmetic surgery, things that were of Andy Warhol’s interest. But, in opposition to his most notorious artistic subject, Marilyn Monroe, the beauty of Ingrid Bergman is one that reminded natural, and that might be why she was able to build herself an international career and play different types of nationality.
The story of Ingrid Bergman’s arrival in Hollywood is one that is well-known among her admirers: In an interview with John Kobal, Ingrid said:
“I made my own image because I refused to change my name or my hair. They wanted to change me completely when I first came over because that was the standard thing to do. They took stars from Hungary, Germany, France, and then tried to change them – to make them more beautiful to American eyes, I suppose. But then they became just like all the other American stars that were there.”
It’s probably the fact that Ingrid was an outsider that, not only motivated her to build her own image without being influenced by the Hollywood system like so many American actresses were, but also that allowed her to move forward, to explore new horizons and, therefore, to influence the world of cinema, not only in Hollywood but internationally. After all, Ingrid said it herself:
It’s also by playing in movies of different nationalities and always bringing her Scandinavian touch to them that Ingrid could build herself an iconic universal image, by, however, remaining herself and not a simple pale copy of Greta Garbo, a Swedish actress who conquered America before her. Indeed, apart from their Swedish nationality, it is difficult to compare both. Greta Garbo stopped her acting career very early (Ninotchka that we saw in class was her before last movie) and, living a highly private life, she never really was implied in any scandals like Ingrid was with the Rossellini-Bergman scandal. Indeed, in 1951, Ingrid went to Italy to make a film with Roberto Rossellini (whom she highly admired) leaving her then-husband and daughter Pia’s in the United States. During the shooting, Rossellini and Bergman had an affair and an illegitimate child was born. Seen as an evil figure, she wasn’t welcomed in Hollywood anymore but, luckily, this wasn’t to last. She eventually divorced her first husband and married Rossellini.
On the map, one can observe that two festivals are mentioned: Cannes Film Festival and Montreal’s 1st World Film Festival (1977). In his text “Discovering Form, Inferring Meaning: New Cinema and the Film Festival Circuit“, author Bill Nichols explains the connection between new cinema and film festivals and how those allow the world to discover something new. Yes, this is true in some cases, but Ingrid Bergman’s situation might be different and these two events are good proofs. Ingrid Bergman could have become a festival image precisely for the universally iconic image she presented. Of course, being the face of an International film festival like MWFF or Cannes is the proof of a global influence indeed. As it is written on the World Film Festival website, the first edition was one of “grand style” as it featured historically acclaimed stars of the world of cinema such as Howard Hawks, Jean-Luc Goddard, Gloria Swanson, Fay Wray and, of course, Ingrid Bergman. By using these grandiose personalities, MWFF built itself an international reputation, which is something useful to a festival celebrating movies from everywhere. The 68th Cannes Film Festival is a bit of a different situation. Indeed, not only Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words (Stig Björkman, 2015) premiere at the festival but Ingrid was also the overall face of the event as 2015 marked her centenary. The fact that her image was used to represent the festival is another proof of, not only a geographical influence but also of an influence crossing the time borders. The case of Cannes 2015’s edition could also be applied to the finding unity map.
However, we have to nuance the case of Ingrid Bergman as an international star. It is not only her own persona who made her one, but also the movies in which she starred and the other personalities with whom she collaborated. Movies such as Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942) and Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946) are among the most iconic ones of the cinema industry. But we can also look at some of the directors with whom Ingrid worked: Alfred Hitchcock, Ingmar Bergman, Roberto Rossellini, Jean Renoir, all of different nationalities but with international reputations too. The legacy of Ingrid Bergman is therefore also expressed through the legacy of these movie directors’ filmography. However, in Ingrid Bergman, A life in Picture, the Swedish actress is quoted on her arrival in Italy in 1949 to shoot Stromboli (Roberto Rossellini, 1950): “Arriving in Rome was just like something out of a dream. I’ve never experienced a welcome like it anywhere else in the world… There were so many people at the airport you’d think it was a queen arriving, instead of just me.” Ingrid was huge in Hollywood and obviously, her star reputation crossed the borders, explaining her popularity in a country where she had never been before. So, this is a proof of her international reputation at a still early stage of her career. In the article “How Movie Moves“, writer Lesley Stern asks different questions in connection with the title of his article. The author writes that “[…] it has to do with the geopolitical: not only with how films circulate, how they are exported and imported, distributed and exhibited, but also with how they move over time […]” Well, Ingrid Bergman is not a film, but her image of “citizen of the world” is built through these films and one can make an interesting connection between what Stern writes and Ingrid’s work with the previously named movie directors. Their collaborations are indeed a way to understand why movies such as Notorious, Journey to Italy (Roberto Rossellini, 1954), or Autumn Sonata (Ingmar Bergman, 1978) are still discussed these days and, indeed, move over time. Concerning the geopolitical aspect, once can, once again, look at the Rossellini-Bergman scandal which almost became a “political” situation and that was created by the crossing of geographical borders (Ingrid going to Italy to make a film). Well, it gave Ingrid a bad reputation for a while but people generally praise her acting life and nowadays chose to overlook her private life decisions. Could the movies she made with Rossellini be remembered today only because of the scandal? Could be for some people, but let’s not forget that it was, after all, the work of two cinema giants.
Map 3: FINDING UNITY – INGRID BERGMAN TODAY
2015 could be known as “Ingrid Bergman Year”. Why? Because people all over the world celebrated the centenary of the legendary actress. And a lot was done about it. Even if Ingrid passed away in 1982 at the age of 67, this didn’t stop reasons to celebrate her memory. While some actors who recently turned 100 while still being alive (Olivia de Havilland and Kirk Douglas), not much was actually done to celebrate them. Not as much as Ingrid anyway… 33 years after her death, this yearly celebration was the proof that the actress defied time and marked many generations. She succeeded to travel across both time and geographical borders and that’s how a world fandom was created around her image, her myth. The map presented here as well as the following text will help us understand how this fandom was created, how this mythical image became and what it is consisting of. Of course, inevitable connections with the previous maps have to be made to help us understand the importance of Ingrid Bergman in our contemporary society.
2015 was a year where the cinematographic industry was fully dedicated to Ingrid Bergman. A burst of products was created in order to bring the Swedish actress back to life. As it was mentioned in the text accompanying my Global Influence map, Ingrid Bergman was honoured at 2015’s Cannes Film Festival. Indeed, her image was used to embellish the official banner of the event. Her centenary was one of the reasons, of course, but Ingrid Bergman also was a member of the Festival Jury in 1973. The poster was designed by Hervé Chigioni. The festival explains the choice of the poster by saying that Ingrid Bergman was a modern icon, a free woman, and an audacious actress. She was both a Hollywood star and a figure of Neorealism, changing roles and adoptive countries to fulfill her passions without losing her grace and simplicity. The documentary Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words by Stig Björkman was also mentioned in the previous text and was a 2015’s product as well. The film was screened at the Cannes Classics selection and received a special mention for L’Oeil d’Or. The film was eventually released at Criterion. This highlighted once again a sense of tribute surrounding Ingrid Bergman. The documentary chronologically looks at various events of her life and alternates between archives images and interviews with her four children, as well as with actress Liv Ullmann, who co-starred with Ingrid Bergman in Autumn Sonata, and Sigourney Weaver. The film was built with the help of Ingrid’s personal writing such as letters and journals.
If there was one person to praise for helping to keep the image of Ingrid Bergman alive and create a sort of cult and fandom around it, it would be her daughter Isabella Rossellini. The actress and model constantly celebrates her Swedish mom through her work. She never acts as if she was living in her mother’s shadow because she shines in her own way. Her “mamma” as she calls her is even brought to life via social media, especially Instagram, The book that was often used for this project, entitled Ingrid Bergman: a Life in Picture was edited by Isabella and Lothar Schirmer. It was however published two years before the actress’s centenary. Interestingly, Isabella Rossellini also created a show called The Ingrid Bergman Tribute to which the festival (Cannes) was associated.
More “ordinary” fans also celebrated the beloved actress their ways. For example, in order to mark her centenary, I’ve hosted the first Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon on my blog The Wonderful World of Cinema in 2015, and it was a way for her fans to celebrate her work through their writing. With more than 30 participants, it was quite a success. Interestingly, people from various generations and nationalities participated in the event, proving that Ingrid interests all kind of people.
A collection of stamps was also released for the occasion of her centenary. As mail can be sent all around the world from one place to another, I believe this also contributed to the transnationalism of Ingrid Bergman!
Finally, if we could name one last creation being part of Ingrid Bergman’s celebrations in 2015, it would be David “Diavù” Vecchiato’s mural of the actress that he painted in Rome, Italy. The masterpiece is located close to Primavalle where Ingrid and her second husband Roberto Rossellini shot scenes from Europea ’51. It is interesting that a Swedish actress should be honoured this way in Italy but this is, once again, a way to prove Ingrid’s transnational image and that she marked the places where she went.
If one looks at the previous Moving Picture map, the fact that she moved from one country to another for her career and personal life could have helped her to build an international and transnational image and “influence” the various places. Of course, some American movie stars are very well-known internationally without having to go work out of Hollywood, but they are only seen as American stars. For Ingrid Bergman, she wasn’t only seen as a Swedish or American star. It’s more complex than that as she constantly rebuilt her identity through her life, metaphorically speaking. Therefore, more people around the world were and are able to identify to her and that’s how a fandom is slowly built.
In the text “European Cinema as World Cinema: A New Beginning?” Author Thomas Elsaesser discusses the differences between Hollywood AND European cinema. Now, this is another element that could help people to understand the transnationalism of Ingrid Bergman and why she is still celebrated today. Interestingly, the author introduces his article by explaining how some movie stars became popular outside of their native country. Among his examples, one of them was Louis de Funès, who was apparently very popular in Germany. But Ingrid did more than Louis de Funès by moving out of her native country in order to develop her career. Therefore, she crossed a new border. As it is understood from Elsaesser’s article, Hollywood cinema belongs to dream and entertainment, while European cinema belongs to art and realism. Hollywood is defined by its movie stars, while European cinema is defined by its authors. Various cinematographic movements were also developed in Europe such a Neorealism and New Wave. This might be already known facts but it helps to understand Ingrid’s prestige and reason to be celebrated all over the world. In her article “My Mother Ingrid Bergman”, Mary Green quotes Isabella Rossellini saying “She was one of the first women thought to have a full career, and she paid a very heavy price for it. She always felt if she couldn’t act, she couldn’t breathe.” Ingrid Bergman was indeed much more than a simple movie star and this is also supported by Pamela Hutchinson in her article “Always Be Yourself: The Making of Ingrid Bergman“ when she writes: “Ingrid Bergman was always first and foremost an actor rather than a star, and her formative years on screen in Sweden, and later Germany, shaped the remarkable talent that would soon make her a Hollywood legend”. So, due to her determination and passion for her work, Ingrid knew what to do and explored both the more “entertaining” side of the movie industry with a career in Hollywood. She also expanded her horizons by having a career in Europe as well, and by working with important authors such as Jean Renoir, Ingmar Bergman, and Roberto Rossellini who allowed her to be part of the neorealist movement. Therefore, as she was associated with these important movements and figures of the cinema industry, people that are still studied today and used as academic subjects in cinema programs, one understands better how a community could have been built around her, and not only an ordinary “fandom” admiring her as a star, but also people greedy to study her as an actress and someone who brought a lot to the movie industry just like the previously mentioned movie directors did.
Now you understand better the IMPORTANCE of Ingrid Bergman. She wasn’t just a Swedish actress, she was much more than that. Her influence across the world was enormous and that’s why we love her! I hope you’ll enjoy my text and I hope to see you more often on this blog. 🙂
“Award of The Montreal World Film Festival – 1977.” The World Film Festival, 2018, http://www.ffm-montreal.org/en/awards/40-awards-of-the-montreal-world-film-festival-1977.html. Accessed March 18, 2018.
Elsaesser, Thomas. “European Cinema as World Cinema: A New Beginning?” In European Cinema: Face to Face With Hollywood, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2005.
Elsaesser, Thomas. “Ethnicity, Authenticity and Exile: A Counterfeit Trade?” in Exile, Home and Homeland, edited by Hamid Nacify, Routledge, 1998,
Ezra, Elizabeth and Terry Rowden. “General Introduction: What is Transnational Cinema?” In Transnational Cinema: The Film Reader, edited by Elizabeth Ezra and Terry Rowden, Routledge, 2006, p. 2
“Festival de Cannes: Ingrid Bergman, star de l’affiche.” Télérama, March 24, 2015. http://www.telerama.fr/cinema/festival-de-cannes-2015-ingrid-bergman-star-de-l-affiche,124545.php. Accessed April 15, 2018.
Green, Mary. “ISABELLA ROSSELLINI My Mother, INGRID BERGMAN.” People, vol. 84, no. 24, 14 Dec. 2015, pp. 106-109. EBSCOhost, 0-search.ebscohost.com.mercury.concordia.ca/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=111353874&site=eds-live.
Hutchinson, Pamela. “Always Be Yourself: The Making of Ingrid Bergman.” Sight & Sound, vol. 26, no. 9, Sept. 2016, pp. 28-32. EBSCOhost, 0-search.ebscohost.com.mercury.concordia.ca/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ibh&AN=117329784&site=eds-live.
Ingrid Bergman Honoured with Rome Mural.” Wanted in Rome. July 29, 2015. https://www.wantedinrome.com/news/ingrid-bergman-honoured-with-rome-mural.html. Accessed April 15, 2018.
Nichols, Bill. “Discovering Form, Inferring Meaning: New Cinemas and the Film Festival Circuit.” Film Quarterly 47/3, 1994, p. 16.
Photo. Le Festival de Cannes aura Ingrid Bergman pour érégie.” Huffington Post. March 23, 2015. https://www.huffingtonpost.fr/2015/03/23/festival-cannes-2015-ingrid-bergman-egerie-affiche_n_6926880.html. Accessed April 15, 2018.
Stern, Lesley “How Movies Move (Between Hong Kong and Bulawayo, Between Screen and Stage…).” In World Cinemas, Transnational Perspectives, edited by Nataša Ďurovičová and Kathleen E. Newman, New York: Routledge, 2010, p. 188.
“Transnationalism.” Wikipedia. 24 May 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transnationalism. Accessed July 30, 2018.
Updike, John, Ingrid Bergman: A Life in Pictures. edited by Isabella Rossellini and Lothar Schirmer, Chronicle Books,2015. p. 96