The Barbara O. Jones Review of The Essential Films of Ingrid Bergman

The Essential Films of Ingrid Bergman delivers an accurate account and perspective about Bergman’s films and career. This book is an excellent resource to students, educators, and film enthusiasts.

In reviewing this book, I found the principal criteria include content, organization, and reference sources. Starting with a biographical note about the actress’s life, the reader is taken on a journey through her films. The tone of the book reflects a learned appreciation for Bergman’s performance explained in this fashion: “The world mourned, as Bergman was universally known and admired for her achievements, in life and in art” (page xvii). The authors, Dr. Constantine Santas and Dr. James M. Wilson, are proven film gurus, who specialize in film history with an emphasis on production techniques.

The Essential Films of Ingrid Bergman allows the reader to easily follow the progression of Bergman’s career. The book is divided into twenty-one chapters. It opens with the actress’s early films in Sweden (1938) and the film A Woman’s Face. The book progresses through her films in Hollywood (1939) starting with Intermezzo and a chronological sequence of her most essential works. The appendices include a listing of her films as well as an accurate bibliography which provides sources for obtaining more information.

The construction of the book interconnects well with its organization and offers a successful study of the different time periods in Bergman’s life. Each chapter is broken down into different sections, which typically fit logically into the topic of the film. Within the text of the chapter, there are an assortment of introduction boxes that describe the film’s technical details. The chapter is mainly structured into a general introduction of the film, the plot, the themes, and the conclusions. For instance, Chapter 9: Notorious, has a different structure, in which, the authors provide good deal of more material, giving a more in depth understanding of this complex film. Each chapter is filled with pictures from the film and colorful quotes from people of that era. These firsthand accounts provide deeper insight into what, in some film history books, is just a listing of factual information. The authors supply an in-depth analysis of various aspects of Bergman’s films often overshadowed by her personal life.

Barbara Ottaviani Jones
University of Central Florida