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Liv Ullmann is warm and charming, the kind of person you’d want to have coffee with. Her easy charisma, not to mention her coruscating azure eyes, make her an ideal interview subject.
She is just that in Liv & Ingmar: Painfully Connected, reflecting with brutal honesty on her tempestuous relationship with director, partner, and soulmate Ingmar Bergman, or as she calls him, Pingmar.
Recalling a conversation on the set of Persona, the duo’s first collaboration, Ullmann divulges how Bergman took her aside and branded the two “painfully connected,” a portentous label that stuck throughout their 50-year history. She speaks candidly about their seesaw relationship, never shying away from details about his emotional abuse or the forced isolation she endured on the Fårö compound, aka Bergman Island.
Director Dheeraj Akolkar often presents Ullmann’s testimonies over clips of the couple’s famed work, a particularly illustrative technique given that the specifics of their relationship directly inspired the content in (among others) The Passion of Anna, Scenes from a Marriage, and, more tenderly, Saraband. Near the end, Ullmann walks through her former home on the island and discovers a drawing board on which the young couple once drew, meticulously preserved by Bergman until his death.
As she tearfully stares at the decades-old text, you feel the gravity of the couple’s life together. Liv & Ingmar is an anecdotal treasure chest for cinephiles, but more than that, it’s a beautifully told love story. (The Film Society of Lincoln Center screens many of the duo’s films this week, too.)