'Liv & Ingmar' delves into an intense relationship

Actress and filmmaker Liv Ullmann bittersweetly reflects on her on-off lover Ingmar Bergman in the documentary "Liv & Ullmann."

 

In "Liv & Ingmar," Liv Ullmann (right) reflects on her relationship with Ingmar Bergman (left). In "Liv & Ingmar," Liv Ullmann (right) reflects on her relationship with Ingmar Bergman (left).

 

‘Liv & Ingmar’
Director: Dheeraj Akolkar
Genre: Documentary
Rating: NR
3 (out of 5) Globes

 

The story of legendary director Ingmar Bergman and his sometime actress, sometime muse, sometime lover (and even sometime adapter) Liv Ullman has already, in a sense, been filmed. The movies he made with her — starting with 1966’s “Persona” — are at least quasi-autobiographical. The two met when she was 25 and he 46. Thus began an intense relationship that ran, in various forms, until his 2007 death. Even after they split up, they remained close and continued to work together. When she wasn’t appearing in his films, she was directing his scripts (including “Private Confessions” and “Faithless”). He was the man she couldn’t quit.

 

“Liv & Ingmar” is not the last word on their relationship. Bergman is no longer around, leaving only Ullmann, still rambunctious in her 70s, to recount what happened. Theirs was a rocky, often unpleasant union, no less because she sometimes found herself recreating aspects of her life on his sets. But time has abated much of the pain. Her tone is meditative and bittersweet, with Ullman looking back fondly on someone who could be accused of being needy, manipulative and cruel.

There’s a much more insightful film that could be made from their relationship, which is not to say that “Liv & Ingmar” is useless. It’s more interesting as a celebration of Ullmann. It lightly delves into her international stardom in the ‘70s, when, thanks to Berman’s films and the Swedish hit “The Emigrants,” she made the rounds in American films, even flirting with an eager Johnny Carson. (It only alludes to the disastrous musical remake of “Lost Horizon,” which caused Bette Midler to quip, “I never miss a Liv Ullmann musical.”)

The film could stand another perspective, or even delve further into the notion of a love so intense that one party could forgive acts that many would find distasteful. (It could also stand less twinkly piano music and attempts at cheesy visual poetry that would make Bergman retch.) But it’s always great to see Ullmann, a figure who often turns down chances to be seen by the public, or to be thought of outside the context of the filmmaker who made her huge.

 
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