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Liv and Ingmar

by on July 21, 2013
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Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann was 25 years old when legendary Swedish director Ingmar Bergman cast her in “Persona.” Twenty-one years her senior, the director found the muse that would serve as the creative fuel for 12 of his films and result in a relationship that would last for the next 43 years of their lives.

Director Dheeraj Akolkar showcases the loving, and sometimes volatile, relationship between Ullmann and Bergman in the documentary “Liv and Ingmar.” Filled with passion and intensity, the duo’s 43-year collaboration went beyond the silver screen and was not the typical Hollywood fairy tale.

The documentary is told through interviews with Ullman, who is still stunning at 73. Her beautiful blue eyes recall the pleasure and pain of loving a man who was private and controlling. While the doc relies heavily on Ullmann’s memories, Akolkar also uses Bergman’s letters to Ullmann to help the deceased director lend his voice to the story.

In those letters, Bergman tells Ullmann he had a dream that they were “painfully connected” and that dream turned out to be a premonition. The couple shared five years of their lives together from 1966 to 1971 and had a daughter, but things never worked out. Bergman tried to shield his muse from the world by constructing a wall around the beautiful home he built on the tiny Swedish island of Faro.

After years filled with turbulent times, Ullmann left, which would be the end of the story for most relationships. That wasn’t the case for Ullmann and Bergman. The couple spent the rest of their lives navigating life apart but always connected up until the director’s death in 2007.

The interviews are conducted in and around the home Ullmann and Bergman shared, adding more weight to the words. Bergman’s presence seems to fill the house.

Two of the most touching scenes in the film come late in the 81-minute running time. One involved Ullmann describing a wall diary the two kept during their relationship. As the sun faded it during the year, she tells how Bergman would touch it up every spring, freezing it in time. Since his death in 2007, the images are fading into the ether much as the director has himself.

The other is when Ullmann discovers that the director kept a note she wrote him several years ago inside his teddy bear. She reads the note and begins to cry during the final lines.

The documentary is beautifully shot with breathtaking images of Faro intercut throughout. Akolkar crafts a beautiful documentary about Bergman and his muse.

While the movie tends to shy away from much of anything about their professional lives, “Liv and Ingmar,” at its core, is a film about passion, love and the enduring connection two spirits can have. It is wonderfully romantic yet tragically sad.

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