"We Make Each Other Alive"

Liv and Ingmar

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            Liv and Ingmar is a memoir drawn from an unimaginably rich trove of archival footage of Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman. Narrated with characteristic candor by Ullmann and assembled with great skill by writer/director Dheeraj Akolkar, it becomes the story of the 42 year relationship between two of the great creative talents of our era.
            Ullmann and Bergman met when she was 25 and he, 46. Drawn to each other while making a film, both left marriages to live together at Bergman’s urging on Caro Island, Sweden. They made ten films together – among them: Cries and Whispers, Scenes from a Marriage, The Emigrants. When they met, she says, “I was experiencing another human being; he was experiencing me; and we didn’t need to talk about it.”
            “I had a dream last night,” Bergman told her, “that you and I are painfully connected.” The pain began quickly as he turned their Caro Island house into a prison. Jealous of any friendships she might have, he fenced the house in to keep visitors out and announced that she would leave only for the weekly trip to town to wash her hair and visit with the film crew. Each time she came home, she would find Bergman standing at the fence, watch in hand.
            After proclaiming the rules of their daily life, he spent his time writing in the study. When their daughter was born, Ullmann was no longer so alone. Of Bergman she says, “He was near us but never with us.” She was sunk in the loneliness created by that fence and the rules it implied. They had four years of deep infatuation, and then she left at 30, taking their daughter back to the city in Norway where she could live a more balanced life. “I left with loneliness in my baggage.”
            One especially memorable scene unfolds as they film a scene in bitter cold on the sea off Caro Island. Dressed in a thin coat, huddled on the bottom of a rowboat with co-star Max von Sydow, Ullmann knows that Bergman, bundled in layers of warm clothes, is prolonging the filming to punish her.
            “I got it all out in my movies,” she says, and so it is in the intriguing juxtaposition of reality and fiction. Their lives, as they played out on screen and off, became reflections – each of the other. Their lives became the movies Bergman was writing and directing.
            After she builds a bridge to him years later, he says, “We make each other alive, and it doesn’t matter if it hurts.” Hurt, it certainly did, but at 76, Ullmann’s narration is spoken with such honesty and simplicity that we understand the depth of their connection. Theirs wasn’t just a love story, though it certainly was that. It was also an astonishing collaboration between two filmmaking giants as they actually lived what they were creating on screen. If you let it in, this one will stay with you.


Distributor : Nordic Stories
Word Count : 498
Running Time : 1:29
Rating : R


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