Notorious: Celebrating the Ingrid Bergman Centenary: Anastasia (1956) ★★★★★


Is it possible to transform yourself from being lost, abandoned, feared and vulnerable into strong, self-confident, and a woman full of energy who is about to conquer the world as Grand Duchess Anastasia? In this roller-coaster ride of a performance delivered by Ingrid Bergman, everything is possible. Even though somewhere deep in your heart you know Anna Koreff, an amnesiac woman, is not real Anastasia, but when you see a brilliantly written, superbly directed movie like ANASTASIA, you want to start believing in miracles. You can’t help but find yourself supporting this poor woman till the end… After all, sometimes we all want to be like Blanche DoBois, “believing not in realism, but in magic.”

When the movie begins, we find a broken, desperate amnesiac woman who seeks an opportunity to escape from the emptiness of her life by committing suicide. But luckily, she is stopped by General Sergei Bounine, whose plan was not just to save an unknown woman’s life, but to present her as the daughter of the late Tsar Nikolai Romanov, who miraculously survives an assassination attempt. He starts training her as if she was born to the Tsar’s family. Soon the hopeless woman will turn into a tender, beautiful and elegant woman who will start believing that she is the member of Romanov family.

This is a truly great experience when you watch a movie about acting, about professionalism, and the ability to use all available skills in order to transform yourself into someone else. The mystery surrounding Anastasia is well known. This is why, seeing Anatole Litvak’s version, written by Arthur Laurents is an extraordinary treat for anyone who always cared about beautiful production. Of course, without great story there would be no Anastasia, this is why the credit must go to Arthur Laurents, who brilliantly described every single scene that allowed Litvak and the actors to become another version of themselves, created for the silver screen.

From the opening scene till the end, Anastasia somehow manages to hold the viewer in a way that’s so inexplicable, some of you may find yourself simply stunned. The confrontation scene between Anastasia and Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, played flawlessly by Helen Hayes, is something that deserves a separate discussion altogether. Despite Ingrid Bergman’s outstanding performance, the entire scene was owned by Helen Hayes, who gives an absolutely outstanding performance as the old Dowager empress who wanted believe that it was time she’ll be able to finally let the ghost from her past go away.

Ingrid Bergman as Anastasia is astonishing; one minute she is genuinely laughing wildly, and a minute later, sobbing heartbrokenly. This is a big performance that she delivers after returning to Hollywood from Europe, where she ran off with Roberto Rossellini. In the end, there is not much to say about Litvak’s movie, except for being an exceptional, unique and timeless piece of art. After each time you see Anastasia, you can’t help but always ask yourself if she’s real or an impostor? But the whole truth is, you never know…

Schedule: Tuesday, September 1, TIFF Bell Light Box at 6:30 PM

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