Holding Bergman

Nearly two years ago, I promised myself I would watch Liv & Ingmar, but only had the opportunity to do so this weekend. I did not know what I would come away with from the film, but in short it was simple and touching, a rather linear account of love becoming friendship and Ullmann’s empowerment because of and in spite of Bergman.

Bergmann’s influence waned long before his death in 2007 as his study of the human condition became spread out among many other film makers and the “silence of God” motif wore thin. Any movie that would rehash any of this would be a doomed venture hardly worth viewing. Fortunately Liv & Ingmar is not such a movie. Besides this is a movie not about Bergman, but the woman he loved and who loved him in return.

Knowing a little of their relationship gives nothing away; most people who followed either or both Ullmann and Bergman know the outline already. It was the May to December relationship of an older established filmmaker and the young actress who became his muse and lover. They had an unspoken connection that blossomed, knew bliss, became creative, produced a daughter then became marred by his controlling nature and eventually evolved into a friendship and partnership of creativity that was as potent as any affair or marriage.

Central to Liv & Ingmar is Ulmann’s cryptic statement that she could never really leave him, though when she was 68, he did leave her in the most real way possible, but only after she was able to say goodbye and hold him one last time in the house they shared on the sparse island where they fell in love. A little more than two weeks later the “religious” Liv saw the “skeptical” Ingmar laid to rest beneath the spire of the Faro church, a reminder that God holds Ingmar in spite of Ingmar often refusing to hold to God.

The house on Faro is not far from the church. In that house are the walls in Bergmann’s study where every morning Liv and Ingmar would etch hearts and teardrops into the wall to show how they felt about the day and one another. Even after he had married Ingrid Rosen, Ingmar did not paint over the walls. For more than forty years he maintained the little etchings of two people that are there to this day. It would seem that Ingmar, often as skeptical of love as faith, has never been put down by that greatest of human feelings in spite of his attempting to claw free of it.

If you have sought to flee love and cannot, this movie is worth watching. It looks a little at the creativity of two creative people, but it is more about those little moments of bliss and little moments of pain that come with being open to love as well as the great pain of being left alone and the greater joy of knowing you are not alone whenever you find yourself in the  place of love.