When you are given an opportunity to meet a legend in the film business you don't turn it down. So I headed to meet Liv Ullmann who has appeared in more movies than I can count and as of late has became a great director. She directed Cate Blanchett in the terrific revival of A Streetcar Named Desire which I saw in NY a couple of years ago.
She was in NY for the premiere of the documentary about her relationship with Ingmar Bergman - Liv and Ingmar. The film screens this evening at the NY Film Festival.
WaH: Why you agreed to make such a personal film.
LU: Well, I said no first. Well, Dheeraj Akolkar had written me a letter like a year or two ago, and I said, “Sure I can be there for a movie” but I think I think I even phoned you because I was very moved by his letter— if you ever get it together, yes. And then I more or less forgot and then the producers called me. I was in Oslo and they said, “Do you wanna be part of this?” And I said oh no, I don’t want to be part of this movie. Well, this director going to make the movie whether you do an interview or not. Do you want to meet him? And I said no because if I meet him they’re going to think I’m doing the movie. And they said just go and meet him and I went. And I just liked him immediately because this person he listens and I said you know I’d like to work with you because I liked his questions. I said I’ll do the movie but on this condition only 2 days of interviews and you can use my reading which was there and that’s it.
WaH: You got a lot of work done in two days.
Dheeraj Akolkar: Yes.
LU: I made a contract with the producer, if I hate this I’m going to be very open about it, and I never thought I would really like it in the way I did. I think it’s been done with great dignity and it’s a creation. And as far as I know no one has made a documentary building on the movie of filmmaker and it doesn’t mean that Ingmar’s and my life was like his movie because it can look like that.
WaH: It kind of does.
LU: It’s only because he’s a good filmmaker and he makes movies about relationships, so yes it can look like ours, only because it looks like yours or other people’s.
WaH: Ingmar Bergman directed movies about relationships. He was the master and here in the United States it is very much a women’s domain, to do the movies about relationships. So it’s so interesting that he is revered for making relationship movies while women taunted for making relationship movies. What do you think that’s about?
LU: Because he was so interested in women. I have never felt myself so well understood by a man. He had a great, great interest in women and he also wanted to work more with women than with men because he said women are not scared of undressing, I mean their face their feelings, and so it’s much harder to make an actor do this than to make an actress.
WaH: So tell me, what makes a guy from Indiawant to make a movie about Ingmar Berman and Liv Ullmannn?
DA: Cinema is about emotions. Cinema is not about nationality because it’s an art about emotions, ultimately. I’m a human being and I read this book by this extraordinary human being called Changing and in that book I met a girl growing up to be an actor, and then she met this man and what happened is genuine is so human and at the same time so dignified. That is where the film is. I got interested in the human aspect of the story. And I was inspired by the book very much. The film came after he passed away. It just came one day.
WaH: Is it strange to see your life on screen like that?
LU: You know, I didn’t think it would be because I thought I’ll be interviewed. I had no idea, honest to God, what it would be. And yes, it was very strange first of all because it’s my story, and I think if I had made it would have looked so different. But I realized that my story wouldn’t necessarily have been closer to the truth because I color it. The shock is that he made you know Ingmar’s films like our story and I had never thought about that before. For a long while I thought that isn’t right until I realized that is what Ingmar does.
We were not violent, but really tough to each other. Not physically violent, but I know Ingmar felt these things, it was horrible for him and it was horrible for me because it goes to my tummy. And so that’s why I think there’s so much violence in his movies, because that’s his choice to show what it does a person. My second reaction was I didn’t know Ingmar cared for me that way for so long. It became so clear for me when I saw the movie the scenes that I had forgotten — and these letters and there were 78 that belong to the foundation I hadn’t read them for years and years but I kept them.