On Saturday I auditioned for a role in a French play.
The director told me to think about delivering the lines in a Liv Ullman style. To be honest, that’s not what I heard initially. In a Chilean versus New Zealand accent incident, I heard “Ingrid Bergman style”, and started getting all Casablanca on it. But what he meant was I should say the lines in a “Liv Ullman as she is in Ingmar Bergman films” style.
I can’t say that I am at all a connoisseur of Ingmar Bergman’s films or Liv Ullman and her acting style. So I looked her up. Of course.
And what I found made me think. A lot.
Liv Ullman is a Norwegian actress and film director. In her own right. I say that because she is often described in her role as one of Ingmar Bergman’s muses and lovers, and appeared in 12 of his films. And, while there’s a part of me that feels annoyed at the constant view of Ullman as some kind of extension of Bergman, she, herself, constantly refers to him in interviews and articles. Their actual liaison only lasted five years, but the impact they had on one another seemingly had long-reaching effect.
In terms of acting style, Ullmann virtually defined a nakedly emotional, natural style of acting that few since have come close to approaching in terms of the level of quality and honesty. I’m not really sure I can even begin to attempt that, but it always pays to have high standards to strive for.
Acting style aside, what interested me most about Liv Ullman is her take on life.
Men and women and love and hate are the themes of most of the projects that have dominated her life.
“What else is there?” she says. “I think the most important theme is that we don’t connect. We want it so much, but much of it has to do with missing the important moments, or watching them slip by.”
“It is so difficult for people to really open up to each other, so they choose instead to settle for lives of emptiness. Young people today don’t even have to do it with each other. They can do it with their phones.”
Liv Ullman is 75 years old. She has had, in her own words, "a wonderful marriage for 30 years" but she says that, "she still has this thing about men". She is always looking for love and wondering what a man is, because the first man in her life left her so soon. When she was six years old, her father walked into the propeller of a plane.
While Ullman is still enthusiastically creating and contributing and loving and learning, she is also philosophically calm about her life and all the people, tragedies, elations and success she has encountered.
In many of her interviews she refers to Søren Kierkegaard’s philosophy that we came into this world with sealed orders. For Ullman, this doesn’t mean we have no choice; it means that maybe right now we are doing just what we were supposed to be doing.
I love Liv Ullman.