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Actresses: Ingmar’s Ingrid

3 minute read

When Ingmar Bergman exports a film, he often exports Ingrid Thulin too. She was the somber daughter-in-law in Wild Strawberries, the agonized wife of The Magician, and the plain and neurotic schoolmistress in Winter Light. Now she is the deviate sister in Bergman’s new film, The Silence.

From behind the eyeglasses of Winter Light and the pervasive gloom of all these characters, the girl who steps out is a natural blonde with bright blue eyes, a large mobile mouth, and a smile that is not quite too cool to be overpowering. She is an actress of prodigious experience who has been in 30 movies and twice as many plays, an accomplished classicist who prompts the purplest critics in the frozen north to write that she “fills every corner of the stage with feminine sovereignty, beauty, sex and nerves—a star shining by its own power without reflection from irrelevant suns.” Ingrid Thulin (pronounced too-lean) was born into a comfortably landed family in the far north near Lapland.

Her father is often called a fisherman in the press, but this, she explains, “only means that he fished all the time.” Trained at the Royal Academy, she was nearly always cast as a sex merchant— before Bergman found her. “I always had to play femme fatale roles because I looked a little exotic for Sweden. I never looked like a Swedish woman. I had to play sophisticated ladies with low necks and yulery,” she explains, fingering imaginary pearls. Bergman concealedher lavish charms. “It’s fun to work with him,” she says. “We get very involved emotionally for three months; then it’s over and we say goodbye.” She is now 34 and wants to be a directorherself. She has directed three plays so far, and one short film. She could perhaps be a Swedish international star like Greta Garbo or Ingrid Bergman, but after a disastrous experience in Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, she intends never to work again for Hollywood,whose exemplar potentates she recalls as “not very dependable—little crazy people you couldn’t trust.” Her husband, Harry Schein, is a millionaire refugee from Austria whose entire family died in gas chambers. He made his money by inventing a process for purifying water, but has long since sold his business and has just founded the new Swedish Film Institute.

Their home says much about the small population of Sweden, a country she describes as being “on the corner of the world. People don’t pass through it. They come to turn and go back.” The Scheins live in a rambling house in a pine forest. It has tall, leaded windows that look over a bay of the Baltic Sea. There are rabbits and squirrels all over the place—”and one owl, and one fox.” It is eight minutes from the heart of Stockholm.

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