Thriller

Ingrid Bergman: Questioning Your Way to Better Mental Health

Ingrid Bergman discovers Gregory Peck (asleep) is not who he claims to be. Image: AllPosters
Ingrid Bergman discovers Gregory Peck is not who he says he is. Image: AllPosters

In the 1945 thriller Spellbound, Ingrid Bergman asks a lot of questions.

She asks so many questions, in fact, we’re willing to bet she holds some kind of cinematic record.

Bergman plays a psychoanalyst who helps amnesia victim Gregory Peck uncover details of a murder he may or may not have committed. She is convinced Peck has knowledge of an event so horrible he’s buried it in his subconscious. This is coupled with a Guilt Complex that is clouding his mind.

We (as in, yours truly) are not trained in psychiatry, so here’s the simple Wikipedia definition of a Guilt Complex:

Guilt Com·plex (noun) : an obsession with the idea of having done wrong

You need to keep this definition handy because the term “Guilt Complex” really gets around in this film. Between Guilt Complex discussions and Bergman’s questions, it’s a wonder anything gets done.

But in spite of all of this heavy-handed psychiatry, Spellbound zips along. When Peck is discovered to be impersonating a man who has disappeared – and later found dead – Bergman takes it upon herself to Sort Things Out.

Of course, she and Peck and fallen in love, and she’s convinced of his innocence. It’s hard to know what this conviction is based on, because here’s what keeps happening:

  1. Peck sees a pattern of straight lines and goes into kind of a trance.
  2. Bergman starts grilling him with questions. What does he see? What is he thinking? What does he remember?
  3. Peck snaps at Bergman and tells her to stop.
  4. Bergman asks even more questions.
  5. Peck blacks out.

Bergman is certain this means progress – and she may be right, because each time Peck is able to shake a few more memories out of the box.

So you can see why Bergman asks so many questions. It appears you have to, if you’re going to reboot someone’s memory.

Now, all of this questioning takes place in between dodging the police and mental health authorities, and hoping Peck doesn’t get any funny ideas when he sees a pattern of lines while he’s holding a straight-edge razor.

Silly Ingrid trusts Peck enough to go skiing with him near perilous cliffs. Image: lsdkjf
Silly Ingrid goes skiing with Peck near perilous cliffs. Image: Adam Mohrbacher

Spellbound is not one of our favourite Hitchcock films; however, Hitch is such a clever director and the cast is so good, it ends up a much better film than it looks on paper.

Bergman’s performance is crucial – it’s up to her to carry the film. She convinces us the answers to the mystery are so close, we can almost reach out and touch them.

Her character is unafraid to collide head on with what comes next, even if it means Peck might kill her. (Well, if she insists on asking all those blasted questions…) However, her desire to cure him is far greater than her fear of him.

Bergman also has a way of slipping into Kind Doctor Mode, the way some doctors do when they’re delivering bad news in an upbeat way. When she questions Peck, she speaks in a soft, cheerful voice and assures Peck they’ll Get To The Bottom Of This.

How can you not salute a woman like that?

Spellbound has its flaws, in our opinion, but it is a must-see for Ingrid Bergman fans – or for those who like a big helping of psychoanalysis with their thrillers.

Spellbound: starring Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Michael Checkov. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Written by Ben Hecht and Angus MacPhail (adaptation). United Artists Corp., 1945, B&W, 115 mins.

This post is part of The Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon hosted by The Wonderful World of Cinema. Click HERE to see the schedule.

Ingrid Bergman Blog

Advertisements

39 thoughts on “Ingrid Bergman: Questioning Your Way to Better Mental Health

  1. What a great account. I’ve always been absolutely fascinated by this movie — spellbound by it, in fact! I do see the flaws that you mention (and I think the animated bit is just pretentious silliness), but somehow they’re for me irrelevant — like a blemish on the face of the one you love, sort of thing.

    Like

  2. A very interesting way of looking at this film–and you didn’t even mention the Dali sequence! (But that’s okay.) Ingrid looks very sexy wearing glasses.

    Like

  3. I agree with you, this isn’t one of my favorites, either. And I don’t know for sure why — I have absolutely adored Bergman, Peck and Hitchcock elsewhere. Perhaps it is, as you say, “heavy handed.” But Bergman is the glue that holds the film together. The likeable core.

    Like

  4. Love the line, “We both know that the mind of woman in love is operating on the lowest level of the intellect.” That’s the way to get the girl! haha.

    Love the title of your post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “We both know that the mind of a woman in love is operating on the lowest level of the intellect.” That’s the way to get the girl!

      Well, dangit, you mean that‘s the mistake I’ve been making all these years?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Way to highlight another great Hitch heroine! I always felt like Spellbound got a bad rap, which is a huge shame because Bergman and Peck made a blindingly beautiful couple, and Bergman played such a good character. She’s more competent than all the men put together, and she doesn’t let any of the misogyny get her down. Go Constance!

    Like

  6. Terrific commentary and views on a film that’s so-so for me. Still worth a watch as you note. Ingrid’s great and some of the visuals are fun a-la-Hitch. I cannot stand the Dali sequence. Wonder what that says about me? Psychologically speaking. 🙂

    Aurora

    Like

  7. It’s so interesting to see Ingrid leading the picture, with a young and basically inexperienced Gregory Peck next to her. Sometimes the film is too didatic, but the mystery is enough for us to go on. A wonderful write-up on a beautiful movie.
    Thanks for the kind comment!
    Kisses!
    Le

    Like

  8. I remember this film from watching it a long time ago when we were trying to watch every Hitchcock film we could get our hands on. I don’t remember much, but do recall Bergman asking a lot of questions and wondering why she stuck around when it looked like he was guilty. Your review helped me to understand that better. Even though Hitchcock does some interesting things in his movies, I really enjoy them. I have always liked both Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck so it’s hard for me not to like this movie. I would like to see it again with your review in mind. Thanks, Ruth!

    Like

    1. Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck are fabulous, aren’t they? Their on-screen charisma really elevates this film, which goes to show why great actors are worth what they’re paid.

      I admire many things about Hitchcock’s films from the 1930s-50s. He certainly knew how to create and build tension!

      Like

  9. Agreed on all points. I sort of love the idea of Spellbound, but actually watching it it’s not my favourite – I think possibly by literally featuring a therapist and patient it’s a bit on the nose as a psychological thriller? As opposed to Vertigo, for example. But as you say there is a lot to recommend it, not least Bergman’s performance.

    Like

  10. Ha!! This was a hilarious review. But I Loved the movie, and I agree, it’s thanks to Hitchcock, Bergman & Peck, that it’s worth watching. But what I really loved was the surreal dream sequence created by Salvador Dalí (my all time artist).

    Like

Start Singin', Mac!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s