BANGALORE: The love story between Norwegian actress and film director Liv Ullman and Swedish director Ingmar Bergman has been eulogised with much love and sensitivity by Indian born filmmaker, Dheeraj Akolkar. The documentary 'Liv & Ingmar', which will be screened at Everest Talkies on May 29, will perhaps inspire a whole new generation to watch the films that were born as a result of their love and passion for each other and for cinema.
“It started in the house of a legendary documentary filmmaker and activist Zul Vellani. In Zul's house I found a book written by Liv Ullmann called 'Changing'. In that book she has written a very humane account of her life with Ingmar Bergman whom she describes as ' the man who changed my life'. The honesty of her words and the dignity with which she has written the whole book stayed with me and I was intrigued by this very different and unique story of friendship and warmth and love," he says.
And it was ultimately the couple's friendship that inspired Dheeraj to make 'Liv & Ingmar'. "Despite a very painful break up and after having gone on their own two separate ways, they never lost the one path they had together. They both built a bridge and stayed friends without turning bitter, without suing each other and they kept working, creating timeless films," he explains. "You don't have to live under the same roof, or be married or be in a relationship with one another in order to be each other's soul mates. Human connection is that knowledge within, everything else is immaterial and unnecessary," he continues. Once he had the book, Dheeraj took it with him when he moved to London to study in 2006. Then in 2007, when Bergman passed away and he was leafing through newspapers to see if Liv had said anything and found that there was nothing, the film came to him which he wrote down first as a poem.
“Later I wrote a letter to Liv proposing to make this film and she called back stating that she will participate with an interview, and that I must make the film from my perspective,” he informs.
Dheeraj states how he had never watched Bergman’s films until he read Ullman’s memoir. “After I reached London, and after having read her book, I started watching the films - mainly their work together - from ‘Persona’ to ‘Saraband’ - and of course I was taken in by an inexplicable force. Ingmar Bergman is a master of cinema and an extraordinary artist. It is no wonder he went to Liv Ullmann 12 times in 42 years. She herself is an artist of integrity and excellence,” he says.
When asked what he felt was the main takeaway from working on this film, Dheeraj emphatically states, “I feel cinema is a language of emotions. No race, class, colour, culture, nationality, sexual orientation, politics or spoken language should stop any artist from telling stories anywhere in the world. ‘Liv & Ingmar’ has been made in Norway, Sweden, England, The Czech Republic and India by artists collected from ten different countries but the result is a human story. Knowing that this was possible also gives me a lot of hope.”
Dheeraj and Liv still keep in touch over lengthy phone calls. At the dinner before the theatrical premier of ‘Liv & Ingmar’ in Oslo on the September 28, 2012, she apparently said, “For the first time in my life, someone has acknowledged that what me and Ingmar had was based on love.”
Liv & Ingmar will be screened at Everest Talkies (Frazer Town) on Thursday, May 29 at 7 pm. Free entry, on a first come, first serve basis.