In the documentary/memoir by neophyte filmmaker Dheeraj Akolkar, Liv & Ingmar (2012), Ullmann reads short passages from her 1978 book Changing. She answers Akolkar’s unheard questions and offers anecdotes that gradually culminate to reveal an undeniable source for Bergman’s penetrating films.
A passionate love affair whose flame continued to burn even after their break-up, a long-enduring friendship, and Bergman’s eventual death in 2007.
The relationship dynamic of Liv and Ingmar (2012)
At first, the film feels a bit indulgent and heavy-handed, but it builds nicely to express something greater about the relationship. Beyond the two human beings involved in it, Akolkar layers on the images, scanning landscapes or empty interiors the couple once inhabited together. Akolkar hardly takes tangents away from the relationship. In fact, someone unfamiliar with the story of this creative couple might wonder what happened to the significant others.
In Liv & Ingmar, this intense relationship is offered as an object to be reflected in their art of films. She is grateful for the outlet. “I have a lot of anger in me…”. She admits, “…and I’m so lucky I have a profession where I can let it out.” Firstly, their relationship was real in a sometimes ugly, cruel way. Despite that, it was also banal and infused with the honesty of love. Secondly, such a realization comes with a perspective of hindsight. Therefore, Liv & Ingmar turns out to be a beautiful, meditative film imbued with the nostalgia of reflection from a perspective that only the twilight years can provide.
Akolkar’s documentary lets us glimpse the private couple who became lifelong friends. Ullmann speaks about the “publicity around private grief,” her sudden sparkling Hollywood stardom, and gives her interpretation of Nora’s famous final scene in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.
Many of her comments can reach far beyond the world of acting. Like her description of being two people on stage, “One tries to act, the other stands aside, criticizing every movement, every word. These two people, who are both me, get tangled up together, make me feel sick. I seriously consider pretending to faint.”
Naturally, we get a clearer picture of Liv than that of Ingmar. It is because she is one who talks and the latter’s voice is not heard. His presence on the island is still felt in the changing of the light. Ullmann comments, and when she says “silly things”, or “he has the little flies come to ruin the picture.” One may pay attention at the very end of the painfully connected portrait and can see him in the air.