“I DID'T REALLY SPEAK, BUT I MADE A STORY”

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Liv Ullmann has been nominated for more than 40 awards including various lifetime achievements, she won the best actress prize three times from the National Society of Film Critics, three times from the National Board of Review, received three awards from the New York Film Critics Circle and a Golden Globe. 

Liv Joanne Ullmann is a Norwegian actress born December 1938 Tokyo. She is best known for her connection with the Swedish director Ingmar Bergman and started her acting career as a stage actress in Norway in the mid-1950s. She decided to become an actress at the age of 17 and came to London to attend the YWCA to learn acting after been in Newcastle for a short while, What made her become an actress Liv explains I was so shy and I think a lot of actors will tell you that and I didn’t really speak, but I made a story. 

When I was very young Christian Anderson wrote a play, which grabbed the attention of my patents I had been on the theater, which is the way to really reach people I really wanted to be a comedian because later in school. I would write small comedies and it was my way of communicating to share something, which was far within to connect with the people around you.

When she became more established she started to work with the Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman and later acted, with acclaim, in 10 of his movies, including Persona (1966), The Passion of Anna (1969), Cries and Whispers (1972) and Autumn Sonata (1978), in which her co-actress, Ingrid Bergman, resumed her Swedish cinema career. 

Ingmar Bergman had heard of Ullmann as she did a lot of films and he had seen a couple of the movies one of them was with Bibi Anderson, which they became best friends Liv then went to Stockholm to visit Bibi at the age of 25, not knowing this would be the start of her film career, They walked the streets and there was Bergman he takes a look at Liv, speaks, she stands there red, she couldn’t speak he said, would you like to be in a movie with me, Ullmann replies, yes this was for the film Persona it was a small part for ullmann, but she was very proud.

At the BFI (British Film Institute) I had the pleasure of finding out more about the iconic actress, her career and connection with Ingmar Bergman, the interview really touched the hearts of myself and the audience. Before getting into the interview Liv says a few inspiring words, about working on the film Persona I have to say Bergman did improvise a lot when filming he saw a close up of Bibi and I in the film persona with two cameras Bergman sat at the editing table editing it to put the two shots together, but he just couldn’t do it he thought we were both wonderful so he decided to use both. 

They are important to Ullmann because he would have been 100 years, in fact, we should be very happy he is not here because his art cannot be summarized in a few words I wouldn’t even try it. We are celebrating his writing, his films his theatre production in all of it he will find human beings finding wisdom, beyond knowledge he wanted to communicate correctly to all of the people, not through their minds, but right to their souls by cinema he said, we can reach new previously unknown worlds realities beyond realities just a picture thing of a ballet dancer dancing and suddenly he would jump up in the air and would stay up in the air for a few seconds longer then it is possible, that is an artiest and that is a picture of what Bergman does thinking of visions that he had made in his movies a thing of the night playing with death that vision when people will live long after they even realize they didn’t even understand what they where saying that happened to me. 

Bergman said, “I do my work for everyday purposes and not for eternity in my pride is the pride of a good craftsman”.

I notice throughout the interview his obsession with death especially in The Seventh Seal, which is considered a classic of world cinema. Through his films he creates the possibitlity of love and the unfulfilled love, yes the vision of the night playing chess with death what he’s really saying here is if you listen to the words it is the night he and you know he’s going to die and death is there in front of him, but Bergman says that night, he feels that I have never done something that meant something for some else I don’t want to die without for once doing something that is outside of me and he begs the death give me one more chance and he gets the chance the longing to come close to someone else with great empathy he holds a mirror upon himself then he sees and describes you, me in that same mirror he told me of his grandmother who taught him to seek the high mountains the silent forest, the rippled spring, the unknown destination of his life, Liv would ask him what unknown destination, Bergman replied I was there once when I was very young since then I’m trying to find my way back….

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Bergman wished to live without fear although fear could fear him, it did not hinder him, it was like he found pockets of safety in the middle of his demons he called his fear demons, he found it in his creativity he knew without those he worked with he would find safety as a matter of fact he believed that you always need others to create togetherness or as he himself described it selfish togetherness.

It was written when he died his films were a long dark night of the soul and now it wasn’t so his films are about you, me about finding wisdom and recognizing it in others about striving to connect day – after- day he would year-after-year sit in his workroom at his desk with music always flowing finding what he called human wholeness. His films may reflect the sacrifices and the pain that he lived with, but his need for solitude gave him some kind of inner peace and from when he was 50 years he would live on his island Gotland for a time.

Ullamnn visited the island the last afternoon of his life in Norway and felt something was happening and for the first time in her life she hired a private plane she went to Sweden and there Bergman was in the house there was know one there around except nurses who were looking after him, he was already on his way he didn’t speak to me, but I was there and I held his hand I hoped he knew at that moment he had reached the whole world around him and allowed so many of us to know so much of all the importance of living that we are all unique, all connected and Liv didn’t really know what to say to him, but in his last film the one called Sofia the woman liv played she comes to her husband and he tells her why did you come here, she says because you called for me that was the one thing I said to him I came because you called for me Ingmar and I’m so proud  to have known you thank you. 

Liv quotes; “there comes a time in your life when you do not want to give anything away to who you are or adapt to other people you are kind of isolating yourself, but Ingmar felt in love with me and I fell in love with him.”

Every film is a new adventure, but did it feel at the time an adventure, as I don’t know anybody who has created an amazing run of work it was exciting and Bergman’s scripts were wonderful because they are not like normal scripts, yes all the lines where there, but you couldn’t change one word on the other side he would write things about what kind of day it was, inspirational things because he felt and knew which actor he would always have while he wrote the script Bergman would never explain the part he would allow you, as the actor to create the character he would never go in to your creation, but your creation is already there it’s in the words.

When Bergman was always standing by the camera you had the best audience in the world. 

Liv then moved on to directing movies herself creating a film called faithless, which was a script written by Bergmann this reflects Bergman’s own past of his jealousy, his lovers past and a trip he took to Paris, this gives the impression that it meant a lot to him to be involved. In the past he allowed Ullmann to take the lead role of her own character, but when it comes to the script you can feel that Bergman seems a little overprotected liv knew she wasn’t allowed to change the script and respected that. 

What’s sad that Bergman couldn’t make the movie in 35 mm the way he wanted too because he was talked in to making it digital, which meant he couldn’t stand by the camera anymore and do everything that he loved. The sad thing for him when the camera happened was watching the shooting through a monitor for him that was hard, but in between so happy to be with us, as it had been many years since he had done a movie.

After the filming Bergman stood there and said bye bye just walked out the studio and the door locked he took a private jet to Gotland he was there for 10 years without ever coming back again to Stockholm or anywhere else. He’s a man of solitude an islander in a world the one we are living in now we need artist like Bergman to remind us who we are, why we are and can you believe that 50 years after he went to Gotland to build this house  he will appear all over the world in 2018 with his films, books, lectures, writings, yes Bergman may have left us, but he’s very much alive

You can visit Sweden Gotland to the house of Bergman, which is now a museum. It really has not changed its exactly the same as he left it same furniture, same door in his workroom each day Liv and Bergman would write how the day had been this moved Liv so much, she says, that is why friendship is not only when you are painfully physically connected, friendship is something there that lasts forever and for life.
-LW