Paavo, a Life in Five Courses

A documentary feature about Ingrid Bergman’s former butler, Paavo Turtiainen.

I have four dogs, two donkeys and a wife in Paris and I need help with the household”, the renown Swedish theater producer Lars Schmidt said to young farmboy Paavo Turtiainen at Helsinki airport in 1970. The wife was actress Ingrid Bergman (71 min and 58 min).

A film about friendship, loyalty and bonds. Touching, but also full of funny moments.” Isabella Rossellini

A sumptuous feast for the eye and the heart, PAAVO-A LIFE IN FIVE COURSES is a magnificent film that documents the extraordinary life of a gifted man whose culinary genius and supreme good taste have brought sustained joy into the lives of many people. Hanna Hemila has given us a warm, witty, astonishing and moving work we can savour again and again.” Donald Spoto, biographer of Ingrid Bergman


Finnish farm boy Paavo Turtiainen is hired into the Parisian household of Swedish theatre producer Lars Schmidt and his wife, actress Ingrid Bergman. The couple “adopt” and train Paavo to navigate among the rich and famous. Later on, Paavo becomes the personal secretary for Schmidt and Bergman. His responsibilities include building up the personal archives of both Schmidt and Bergman. Ms. Bergman’s archives are now at the film archives of Wesleyan University and Schmidt’s archives are in the United States Library of Congress. After Schmidt and Bergman divorce Paavo decides to settle permanently in New York. His first clients are friends of Schmidt: celebrities and business personalities Paavo has met while working in Paris and on Dannholmen, a Swedish island owned by Schmidt. Eventually Paavo becomes an acclaimed chef and event planner for high society. Along the way, he has learned to stand on his own feet.

In the film Ingrid Bergman’s daughters Isabella Rossellini and Pia Lindström talk about their “brother” and Lars Schmidt’s son Kristian describes how it was growing up with Paavo. In contrast to hectic New York, we spend time in the relaxing Swedish archipelago, watch Paavo pick mushrooms in the Finnish forests and visit the railway station in the tiny Finnish town of Karis, where Paavo first encountered Ingrid Bergman – on a magazine cover.