Archive for May, 2009


St. Ingrid

Ingrid Bergman in "Europa '51"

Ingrid Bergman in "Europa '51"

Swedish-born actress Ingrid Bergman was Hollywood’s saint in the roles she played and in the naturalistic persona she seemed to inhabit off screen, until scandal hit. When Bergman saw Italian director Roberto Rossellini’s breakthrough neorealist film Rome Open City (1945), she was so moved that she immediately wrote Rossellini, asking to work with him. In 1950, the pair collaborated on Stromboli, which led to an affair between Bergman and Rossellini (both of whom were married to other people at the time) and to an unplanned pregnancy, about which Bergman was unapologetically open. The out-of-wedlock birth led to condemnations of the couple by the Catholic Church and the U.S. Congress, as well as Bergman’s exile from Hollywood for many years.

Europa ’51 (1952) is Bergman and Rossellini’s second film collaboration. By this time, they were married to each other and living in Rome. Bergman plays Irene Gerard, a rich woman exiled from England by World War II and now living in Italy with her husband George and son Michel. Bergman’s films with Rossellini usually emphasize her character’s and her own place as geographical and cultural outsider in a foreign culture. Here, surrounded by poverty, her character’s high social status doubles that status. Irene is a materialistic and selfish woman, as well as a negligent mother, until her son kills himself. In addition to this tragedy, a friend enlightens her about the injustices of the world, especially toward the poor and young, to whom Irene had been blind before. In response, Irene transforms herself into a selfless and loving servant to the downtrodden. Because she carries no religious or political agenda and her husband fears scandal when she aids a juvenile delinquent, Irene is committed to a mental hospital. The film’s plot is almost an allegorical wish to redeem Bergman herself and restore her to her Hollywood image. Bergman would eventually return to Hollywood and win a Best Actress Oscar for Anastasia (1956), a film about an impostor trying to claim a place on the Russian throne.