The BFM 36 Retrospective
The Norwegian actress was born on December 16, 1938, in Tokyo, where her father, an aviation engineer, had moved for work. Upon the outbreak of WWII, for fear of a Nazi invasion, the family moved to Toronto first, and then to New York City. In 1945, when her father died, Liv returned to Norway along with her mother and sister. Gifted with sensitivity and intuition, as well as with a vivid imagination, she was enticed by theatre, painting, and poetry from a very young age. Thus, she decided to enroll at the Webber Douglas Academy in London, where she could also cultivate her other passion: cinema. After being rejected by the Academy of Theatre of Oslo, she joined a small town theatre company - the Rogaland Teater of Stavanger - to play the part of Anna Frank, earning accolades by critics and the audience as well. From 1960 she earned important roles - such as Ophelia in Hamlet and Margarete in Faust - with the Oslo National Theatre.
In 1965 she met Ingmar Bergman. The Swedish director was looking for two actresses for Persona, and was intrigued by a photograph of actress Bibi Andersson with another young actress. A few days later, the two of them were on Fårö Island to shoot the film: Liv played the part of Elisabet Vogler, a 40-something actress who suddenly loses the ability to speak. Truth and fiction, anguish, torment, loneliness, aggression, neurosis, but also the desire for emancipation, pride, and rebellion: those are some of the narrative features that shape the female characters in Bergman's films that see the participation of Liv Ullmann; ten films covering a time span ranging from 1966 to 2003: among them, monumental masterpieces such as Hour of the Wolf, Shame, The Passion of Anna, Cries and Whispers, Scenes from a marriage, Face to face. The two were together for a long time and also had a daughter, Linn, who played some of his father's films while still a child and then became a famous writer, also translated in Italian. Her first films with Bergman allowed Liv Ullmann to showcase her extraordinary acting skills, her piercing and seductive gaze, the essentiality of her gestures and movements, her versatility in the most diverse dramaturgical contexts, her ease in meeting an inquisitive, dominant and possessive gaze such as that of the Swedish master. After working with many other major filmmakers, including Jan Troell, Terence Young, Anthony Harvey, Juan Luis Buñuel, Sven Nykvist, Mario Monicelli and Mauro Bolognini, in 1992 Liv Ullmann decided to step behind the camera and directed Sofie: set in 1886, it's the story of a Jewish girl who marries a man she doesn't love to please her parents. Sofie was followed by another four films, two of which - Private conversations (1996) and The Unfaithful (2000) - based on scripts by Ingmar Bergman. Her last film, Miss Julie (2014) featuring Colin Farrell and Jessica Chastain, is the adaptation of the theatre drama of the same name written in 1888 by the Swedish playwright August Strindberg; the protagonist is an Earl's daughter who tries to seduce a young valet who's in love with her. In the films she directed, the Norwegian actress doesn't show any inferiority complex: she's a confident writer and even more confident in directing her actors, proving to be a skilled narrator who never shies away from portraying femininity both in its aspects of oppression and its need for freedom and emancipation.
Liv Ullmann has never stopped working in theatre, both as an actress and director. In 1980 she was the first woman who became UNICEF Ambassador. Since the mid-70s, she visited war-ravaged villages in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, India, Bangladesh, former Yugoslavia, focusing on the status of women and children in particular. Her humanitarian efforts are still ongoing. As an author, she published two very relevant books: Changing and Choices, in which she talks about moments of her life, people she met, family experiences, but also thoughts, reflections and situations that were a turning point in her life. An intimate, soft-spoken yet uncompromising portrait of one of the most important personalities in contemporary cinema.
Liv Ullmann will attend the Festival.
With the patronage of Royal Norwegian Embassy in Rome.