The Film: Knowing that she was dying of cancer and this would be her final film, it is remarkable that Ingrid Bergman chose to tackle the complicated history of Israel with her role as Golda Meir in A Woman Called Golda, especially considering she was known to be very selective of the films she starred in. This was no coincidence according to Bergman’s daughter, Isabella Rossellini, who has spoken in the past regarding her mother’s choice to star in this film. Rossellini has said, for Bergman, this was a very personal film to her due to a portion of her past she had never been able to forgive herself for. In the late 1930s, upon the eve of Hitler coming to power, Bergman felt the Nazis were only a temporary trend and was mortified when the atrocities of WWII were revealed to the world. After the war, Bergman went to Europe only to find she was too afraid to view the Nazi extermination camps firsthand, which was a sentiment she never forgave herself for. A Woman Called Golda was Bergman’s opportunity to remedy that portion of her past, while also providing a true and honest portrayal of Golda Meir, the fourth Prime Minister of Israel.
A Woman Called Golda functions as both a biopic of Golda Meir and as a documentary of the birth of Israel. It is evident this miniseries wanted to provide an educational account of Israel and those involved in its conception. With that goal, Golda Meir had to be showcased and her role in formulating Israel had to be acknowledged. To do that, the miniseries first showed the level of sacrifice Meir had to make in her early life by breaking through the expectations of both her gender and sacrificing the traditional modes of marriage and family for the sake of providing for a cause she believed in. The miniseries additionally showcased Meir’s individual achievements by outlining the vast resume of jobs she garnered over her life, detailing her progression of experience during such times. The miniseries provides such details with relevancy by emphasizing her experiences gave her the qualifications to follow her instincts and contribute to the formulation and survival of Israel. This further provided to the biopic aspect of the miniseries, to which the personal toll the job had upon Meir is emphasized to the viewer. However, in both the miniseries and in true-life, Meir continually maintained perseverance and kept fighting for the survival of Israel. What results from this is the true-story of a brave woman who showed more strength than most men of her time and successfully provided a country to those who desperately needed a place where they could genuinely find themselves accepted and protected within.
The miniseries, while informational, occasionally was difficult to follow. The definite difficulty of this film was taking the vast history of Israel and condensing it into a 200 minute film. As a result, events tended to be hastily discussed, and without a direct understanding of certain circumstances, viewers easily could be disoriented as to what is occurring within the miniseries. The film does try to rectify this by providing voiceover narration from a secondary character, but that often shifted the film to more of a documentary format and challenged the biopic aspect of the miniseries. However, the comeuppance of this issue was how director Alan Gibson would use genuine black-and-white stock footage of the events spoken of and would splice them with the actions of his film before shifting the film to color. This created the impression of the viewer being a part of a living history. Yet despite any flaws the miniseries had, the miniseries’ historical accuracy has to be commended. This miniseries has a tremendous level of accuracy and never exaggerated any specific event beyond what they actually were, which currently is a fundamental flaw with Hollywood biopics in contemporary film. This makes the miniseries reliable on a educational format and ought to be recommended to anyone who wants to understand the formulation of Israel or Golda Meir.
The Performance: Ingrid Bergman was consistently ill during filming and died a mere four months after filming was complete. If one was not aware of this knowledge when watching this miniseries, most would be shocked when contrasting such knowledge with the performance she gave, which unfortunately was her last. The level of strength and bravery Bergman provided for Golda Meir was astounding, exhibiting her as a modest woman who was well aware of what needed to be done to ensure that future generations of the Jewish people could be able to live a life devoid of persecution and the fear of annihilation. Bergman never allowed for her performance to come off as arrogant or power-hungry, but rather as a simple individual who never demanded special treatment. Her strength stems from her conviction to attain peace and to not stand by idly waiting for others to help. Bergman clearly had an understanding of Meir, who believed that one had to repeatedly challenge the system in order for it to change. The intelligence Bergman instilled into her performance conveyed to viewers the brilliance of Golda Meir and how she was able to achieve what she did in her lifetime.
Bergman truly transformed herself into Golda Meir so deeply, as if she were channeling the real-life woman herself. The most distinguishable aspect Bergman shifted for her performance was perfecting her voice to sound like her real-life counterpart. Bergman firstly exhibited the extroverted power of Meir’s voice that could demand the attention of a room. She also perfectly possessed the unique accent Meir had, which was a mixture of American Midwestern and Yiddish. Considering Bergman, herself, had a thick Swedish accent, her ability to seemingly shed it and adopt another is worthy of commending. Yet also, Bergman’s portrayal of Meir’s body language and demeanor further crafted the performance as both her own, while also showing tremendous respect for Meir. Bergman repeatedly showed exhaustion with Meir, which provided physical evidence to why she would often foray into retirement only to be requested yet again to serve the government. Bergman was sure to convey hesitation in her performance whenever her character was asked to come out of retirement, providing an edge of humanity to the woman. Also notable was Bergman’s inclusion of humility into her performance, to which it further reminded viewers that Golda Meir was a person capable of laughter, even if it were to be at her expense. It is all of these components that provide evidence to the level of respect Bergman offered to Golda Meir through her performance.
Ingrid Bergman was posthumously awarded the Golden Globe and the Primetime Emmy for Lead Actress in a Miniseries for her role as Golda Meir in A Woman Called Golda. Even though she didn’t live to see the critical response or the awards that would ensue as a result of this miniseries, one thing is for certain: Ingrid Bergman ended her career, a career that spanned over forty years, on a tremendously high note and her contribution to film will never be forgotten.
Autumn Sonata: 5/5
Murder on the Orient Express: 5/5
Cactus Flower: 5/5
A Woman Called Golda: 4.5/5
For Whom the Bell Tolls: 3.5/5
Joan of Arc: 3/5
The Bells of St. Mary’s: 3/5
Autumn Sonata: 5/5
Murder on the Orient Express: 5/5
Cactus Flower: 5/5
A Woman Called Golda: 4/5
For Whom the Bell Tolls: 4/5
The Bells of St. Mary’s: 2.5/5
Joan of Arc: 2/5
Links for other Ingrid Thursdays can be found here:
A Woman Called Golda
Joan of Arc
Murder on the Orient Express
For Whom the Bell Tolls
The Bells of St. Mary’s