The Swedish actress/director opens up about overcoming her reluctance to make a film about her life with Ingmar Bergman.
Jørn Rossing Jensen

28 Sep 2012 - 8:01 AM  UPDATED 28 Sep 2012 - 8:01 AM

“When I was contacted about this film I said no, I didn't want to do it. Then the producer approached me, and I said no again. 'Couldn't you at least come down to the restaurant and talk to the director who is waiting for you?' – well, yes, but you can tell him I am not going to do it,” Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann recalled.

“And then he convinced me – he is a very generous person whom you would like to please, and his arguments were not what I expected to hear. He allowed me to see many of the most important times of my life in a new and thought-evoking perspective. In a way, it changed some of my own memories."

Previously screened at the 13th International Indian Film Academy's Videocon Weekend in Singapore, aka the Bollywood Oscars, and at the 40th Norwegian International Film Festival in Haugesund, London-based Indian director Dheeraj Akolkar's documentary Liv & Ingmar covers her 42-year relationship with Swedish director Ingmar Bergman – they met in 1965, were a family for five years, had one child (Linn), and made 12 films together.

Written and directed by Akolkar the film, which was yesterday (September 27) released in Norway, was shot in Bergman's house on Fårö, where Ullmann recounts all aspects of their life together, which was charged with both love and hatred, and how their feelings for each other were reflected in the films they created in close collaboration.

“Their relationship was very special, there is something sacred about it which should be celebrated,” said Akolkar. “When I read Bergman's letters they confirmed what I had sensed – there was so much love, affection and friendship in them. “We make each other alive – does it make a difference if it hurts?” he wrote. To Ullmann, Bergman's greatest gift to her was: “He saw me; everybody has this need to be seen, especially when you get older, and mostly you see parts of each other. But Ingmar knew me, I was never really afraid of him in spite of everything – and he knew that I saw him. We taught each other,” she explained.

“The film we did that meant most to me was Scenes from A Marriage; the character was so much built on me, it was very close, and this was a woman who matured and changed, no male chauvinism here, whereas some of his other scripts were certainly written by a man, Bergman.”

“I am also grateful for having directed Private Confessions – which was one of Bergman's own favourites – and even more Faithless, which made him angry, because we disagreed about certain scenes, and he insisted this was not what he wanted. He hated them – but I was the director.”

“There was particularly one scene which he forced me to cut out before the premiere at the festival Cannes: the old man (the Bergman character) looks out the window and sees himself. Later he called me and asked me to put it in again. I have since realised that he has used exactly the same sequence in an autobiographical film.” “However, I still haven't found out if he demanded the cut because he had already used the idea – or he stole it from me,” concluded Ullmann, whose working agenda includes staging Anton Tjekhov's Uncle Vanya at Oslo's Nationaltheatret, film her own adaptation of August Strindberg's Miss Juliet in Ireland and direct Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House on Broadway.

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