Liv And Ingmar

Liv And Ingmar


Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

“Zoom in even more,” we hear Ingmar Bergman instruct, from a behind-the-scenes clip that starts Dheeraj Akolkar’s magnified portrait of the intense relationship between actress Liv Ullmann and director Ingmar Bergman, that lasted 42 years and produced 12 films.

This intimate documentary invites us to Faro Island in Sweden, where the two met while making Persona. She was 25, he was 47, and their meeting changed both of their lives and film history.

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It is structured in chapters, a reminder of the episodes of Bergman’s Scenes From A Marriage (1973). The background of Liv and Ingmar's inter-titles changes color, depending on the theme. The chapters on Love and Loneliness are white, Rage is black, so are Longing and Friendship, while Pain is red.

The bulk of the movie is from recent interviews with Liv Ullmann, who gives insight into their long and complicated relationship. Clips from Persona (1966), to Cries And Whispers (1973), to Saraband (2003) illustrate her words and the excerpts from Bergman’s personal letters.

Shots of the coast of Norway look like paradise, with the turquoise sea and yellow sun. “This is a little like hell, almost romantic,” Bergman describes his love in a letter to Ullmann, who now, so many years later, sums up their longings as follows:

“I sought the absolute security and protection, a great need to belong. He sought a mother, arms that could open to him, warm and without complications.”

He builds them a house on the rocky beach of the island where they first met, they leave their respective husband and wife, she enters his dream, there is her loneliness, there is his jealousy, they have a child.

Is Your Hand In Mine?

He asks in a letter and you get a sense that Liv Ullmann, speaking so frankly in this interview is still protecting him. She describes his cruelty during filming twice. Once cruelty by fire, once by cold:

We see the clip of Ullmann standing in front of a burning house, while the actress talks about how he wanted her to get closer and closer: “That anger was Ingmar to Liv,” she says. The way she pronounces her own name, as in the verb to “leave,” makes it even more poignantly clear that she had to get out. The clip from their movie The Shame (1968) shows her and actor Max von Sydow in a lifeboat, freezing for hours, and Ullmann illustrates their director’s cruelty by showing photos of Bergman filming on another boat, snuggly wrapped in a hooded down parka.

Akolkar’s documentary lets us glimpse the private couple who became lifelong friends. Ullmann speaks about the “publicity around private grief,” her sudden sparkling Hollywood stardom, and gives her interpretation of Nora’s famous final scene in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.

Many of her comments can reach far beyond the world of acting, like her description of being two people on stage:

“One tries to act, the other stands aside, criticising every movement, every word. These two people, who are both me, get tangled up together, make me feel sick. I seriously consider pretending to faint.”

Show me the man who never felt this way.

Naturally, we get a clearer picture of Liv than of Ingmar, because she talks and his voice is not heard. His presence on the island is still felt in the changing of the light, Ullmann comments, and when she says “silly things,” “he has the little flies come to ruin the picture.” Pay attention at the very end of the painfully connected portrait and see if you can see him in the air.

Reviewed on: 29 Sep 2012
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An exploration of the creative collaboration and romance between the famous actress and director.
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Director: Dheeraj Akolkar

Writer: Dheeraj Akolkar, Ragnhild Lund

Starring: Liv Ullmann, Ingmar Bergman

Year: 2012

Runtime: 89 minutes

Country: Norway, UK, India


New York 2012

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