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Liv & Ingmar

Posted by martinteller on December 3, 2013

Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman made ten films together over the course of four decades, including iconic classics like Persona, Scenes from a Marriage and Cries & Whispers.  But they were more than merely cinematic partners.  They were lovers, each breaking up a marriage to be together.  They had a daughter, Linn.  The romance couldn’t withstand the strain of Bergman’s moody rage or his need to isolate himself, but the two remained lifelong friends and collaborators until his death in 2007.

Indian director Dheeraj Akolkar, making his first feature-length film, hounded Ullmann for quite some time before she agreed to talk for the movie (both speaking freely and reading from her memoirs).  She only allowed two days, however.  And then there is the obvious limitation of not having Bergman available, though an actor occasionally reads from his letters and books.  And it must also be said that the score is awfully sentimental, and Akolkar’s postcard images are a bit much.

Despite these limitations, however, it is a reasonably compelling portrait of the relationship between these two.  Although one wishes for more details, particularly when it comes to their work dynamic, Ullmann paints a vivid picture of the tumult of their romance.  Bergman was prone to fits of temper and despite the intensity of their relationship, he became emotionally withdrawn to the point where they could no longer function as a couple.  Ullmann’s admiration for him is clear but not fawning, and there is an element of mutual respect (not just a master-tool relationship, as the “Stradivarius” remark might indicate).  Akolkar also beautifully incorporates scenes from their films (oddly heavy on Shame, not that I’m complaining) that illustrate the emotional realities, a wise decision as Bergman’s work is particularly autobiographical.

I can’t think of much else to say about this film.  It’s quite short and perhaps that will garner it an audience beyond the diehard fans of either Liv or Ingmar.  In fact, it may have more appeal to a broader audience, seeing as it’s rather light on new insights for the hardcore aficionados.  Rating: Good (72)


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