My current Top 5

My current Top 5


Best Actress 1956: Ingrid Bergman in "Anastasia"

After having been an outcast in Hollywood for her affair with Roberto Rossellini, Ingrid Bergman made a triumphant come back with her role in Anastasia as a woman who calls herself Anna Koreff and who might or might not be the surviving daughter of the Russian czar.

In this part, Ingrid Bergman did a lot of acting – one the one hand, because it is a very challenging role with a lot of emotional scenes but also because her character is one who constantly keeps everyone guessing and who might or might not be acting all the time.

When we first meet her, she is ready to end her life. But fate prevents it and her path crosses with that of General Sergei Pavlovich Bounine and a little later she finds herself pass off as Anastasia as a plan of Bounine to get the princess’s heritage. And while it all seems to be a perfect scheme, we have to wonder if this woman might actually really be Anastasia herself.

Ingrid shows her character as a desperate woman who doesn’t want to be used or told what to do but who has no other choice. She is trapped, she has nowhere to go, a woman with no past, no present and apparently no future.

Unfortunately, Ingrid Bergman’s interpretation leaves little room for speculation. With her performances, she immediately tries to get the audience’s sympathy by showing her character as a woman of endless suffering. The script seems to want to let the question “Is she really Anastasia?” open, but Ingrid Bergman seems to have made up her mind right at the beginning and says “Yes, she is”. This, too, gets the audience on her side as we want to see the character getting her old life back, but Ingrid Bergman took a too easy route – she didn’t give the character as much depth and complexity as she could have but instead focused too much on a positive appearance before the viewer. She never lets us doubt her and makes Anna's misery her only characteristic.

It’s also rather unfortunate that Ingrid Bergman as the central character is not able to really grab the audience. She plays her part with charm and conviction but she never becomes as fascinating as the plot suggests and needs. She also has a rather lacking chemistry with Yul Brynner which makes the ending of the movie rather unsatisfying.

Ingrid Bergman gives a typical star-performance in a movie that only exists to let her shine. And even though she didn’t fulfill all the possibilities of this demanding part, she nonetheless brought Anna to life in an often intense and very dramatic way that shows her undeniable talents very effectively.

In some dramatic moments, she takes it a little too far – her change from mad laughing to hopeless crying is as fake as it gets and in some other scenes her acting becomes too forced, but especially in her moments of quiet doubt and fearful worries, she shows that beneath all of Bounine’s plans is a woman who is only looking for her past. Her hopeful, sometimes happy moments of remembering contrast very movingly with that desperate woman from the beginning of the movie. When she describes a train accident or speaks of old times, her voice gets a longing and especially very inexplicable sound that adds a lot to the mysterious tone of the movie.

Ingrid Bergman shows a lot of confidence in this performance – in her character and her own ability as an actress. While her performance comes across as rather calculated in some scenes, it’s thrilling to watch such a talented actress expressing this confidence in herself. This confidence also helps in making Anna more memorable because Ingrid Bergman shows that by meeting Bounine, Anna has become a different person who allows herself to hope again and shows new spirits inside her. She is a woman who was disappointed very often but still hasn’t given up and grabs every chance for happiness.

This leads up to the best scene of the movie, when the mysterious Anna meets the old Empress. Even though Helen Hayes dominates the scene, Ingrid Bergman is still able to find just the right mix for her character: desperate to be loved but unwilling to settle for pity. She his not interested in money but wants to find what she has been looking for for years: a home.

While Ingrid Bergman oversimplified the character in certain aspects, she still took this dramatic part and gave an impressive performance that gets


joe burns said...

Great review! I'm dreading watching the movie though, since Sage says it's incredibly boring. What did you think of the movie?

Tom said...

I have the same question as Joe. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Oh, it's boring. Except for Helen Hayes's small part.

Fritz said...

I think it's good. It's no masterpiece but if you have the possibility to see it, then do! Bergman may not be the greatest winner ever but her performance is worth watching and Helen Hayes is great, too. And if you are interested in the Oscars, then you should really watch it!