Monday, October 8, 2012

Liv & Ingmar (2012) New York Film Festival

Liv and Ingmar! They're bad cops on the loose! No, wait, sorry, I've made another one of my silly mistakes. This is not a buddy-cop film. Liv & Ingmar are of course Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman, one of the great actresses of the twentieth century and one of the world's greatest film directors. Director Dheeraj Akolkar's debut film is a fine crystal of a movie magnifying the professional and personal relationship between Ullmann and Bergman over their forty-year relationship, making twelve films together, becoming lovers, splitting, becoming friends again, and defining their relationship not only upon the screen but in real life, as told through illuminating and touching new interviews with Ullmann plus clips from many of Bergman's films, giving them real-life significance and import.

This is not a thing for someone reviewing movies to say, but I honestly admit it: I have never seen an Ingmar Bergman movie. I went into the movie knowing Bergman from reputation (and parodies) and Ullmann for the one film I've seen her in, 1973's horrible car-wreck musical remake of Lost Horizon. I deserve all the accusing comments you may care to pelt me with below. Still, consider this: without having seen those famous classics like Persona and Scenes from a Marriage, I found Liv & Ingmar to be an incandescent and joyful celebration of their lives and work, thanks to top-notch direction by Akolkar, who captures the tempestuous relationship through film and TV clips and especially in the series of moving and personal interviews with Ullmann. This is a great and beautiful document of both their working and personal lives, especially visually coming alive in footage shot on the gorgeous and rugged island of Fårö off the coast of Sweden, where they shared their home.

Ullmann's interviews are the centerpiece of the film, her quiet but warm personality beautifully captured, and it's for her performance that I highly recommend Liv & Ingmar, whether or not you've seen or are a fan of Ingmar Bergman's films. This documentary has intrigued me enough to see them and rectify my above-confessed lack of personal exposure to these two giants of cinema. And if you don't think that Chekhov's gun can make an appearance in a documentary film, keep your eye on the small stuffed teddy bear in the window of their home, and be ready for a beautifully and subtle emotional payoff.

Liv & Ingmar premiered at the 50th New York Film Festival on Monday, October 1; subsequent showtime on October 9.


  1. Bergman was great but what was so great about Ullmann? She was good and fortunate to make her debut with Persona. But Andersson did all the acting.

  2. Dear John, Should the director of the reviewed film post a comment ? - I say, why the hell not...
    What a moving review you have written !!! I am so touched by your words and your observation. For a film to reach, the audience is as much responsible as the makers. The audience must MEET the film openly...!!! You do exactly that...