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With: Liv Ullmann
Written by: Dheeraj Akolkar
Directed by: Dheeraj Akolkar
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 89
Date: 01/10/2014

Liv & Ingmar (2013)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Through the Past, Darkly

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Many great director/actor teams have sprung up throughout history, from D.W. Griffith and Lillian Gish to Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, but none of them were quite like Ingmar Bergman and Liv Ullmann.

Dheeraj Akolkar's new documentary Liv and Ingmar, which opens today in Bay Area theaters, interviews the still-vibrant Ullmann and uses excerpts from her book to highlight the feelings behind this relationship.

The pair worked on at least ten movies together, making some of the great classics of world cinema, including Persona and Cries and Whispers.

But their intense relationship also led to some of the most painful and tormented movies ever made, such as Shame and The Serpent's Egg.

When they met, the beautiful Ullmann was around 25 and Bergman -- already an established master -- was around 46. They were both married to other people, but they fell in love with each other.

Living together on Bergman's beloved island of Faro, their tumultuous, passionate relationship had many ups and downs.

They never married, but they had a child together. Bergman could be expressive, but also cruel.

Ullmann inspired Bergman -- he called her his "Stradivarius" -- but with this responsibility came a great burden that she ultimately could not carry.

In spite of everything, the two somehow settled into a great, touching friendship that lasted until Bergman's dying day.

They made one final masterpiece together in 2003, Saraband, and Ullmann even directed two of Bergman's screenplays herself, Private Confessions and Faithless.

Akolkar's documentary uses a handful of modern-day, English-language interviews with Ullmann, but mostly relies on clips of her Bergman films, supplementing these with audio of Ullmann reading from her 1977 book, Changing.

He doesn't often identify the films and quite often leaves out dates, facts, or historical reporting.

The result is a profoundly emotional experience, as if viewers were being magically transported into Ullmann's intangible memories, rather than back to a concrete time itself.

Ullmann has had plenty of time to consider and reconsider all these events and feelings. Things that may have once been painful have now been healed and forgiven. Other things are still left unsolved.

Filmmaker Akolkar celebrates her mishmash of time and memory, rather than trying to fight it.

Most documentaries about the movies simply leave viewers with a list of movies they'd like to see, but Liv and Ingmar serves to deepen the images that Bergman and Ullmann left behind for us. Their love, and their pain, has been illuminated.

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