Love in a cold climate

Love in a cold climate

A new photography exhibition pays tribute to the creative relationship between two of cinema’s greatest lovers.

Published: February 13, 2013 (Issue # 1746)


Actress Bibi Anderson (l) with Ingmar Bergman and Liv Ullmann in 1965 on the set of the film ‘Persona.’

In the pantheon of intellectual power couples, world cinema has yet to come up with a better match than filmmakers Ingmar Bergman and Liv Ullmann. And just in time for Valentine’s Day, a new exhibition celebrating their love opens Thursday at Rosphoto.

“Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman. Photographs” brings together images of the couple from the mid-1960s onwards, many of which have never been displayed to the public before. Drawn from the archives of the National Library of Norway and the Norwegian Film Institute, the photographs show the couple at work and at rest, often in the company of other actors and surrounded by the trappings of their craft.

During the course of a relationship that lasted more than 40 years, the pair collaborated on some of the most psychologically penetrating films ever made, forging an enduring culture of auteur cinema in Scandinavia along the way.

Ullmann and Bergman met in 1965 and lived together for five years, having a daughter before separating. They continued to work side-by-side, however, long after their affair ended and would remain close friends and colleagues until Bergman’s death in 2007.

The couple first worked together on Bergman’s 1966 film “Persona,” which introduced the Norwegian actress to international audiences and won her critical praise around the world. Together they would collaborate on some of the Swedish director’s most celebrated work including “Cries and Whispers,” “Scenes from a Marriage” and “Autumn Sonata,” among others.

Bergman is widely considered to be one of the greatest directors in motion picture history, and is cited as an influence by directors as unalike as Woody Allen and Andrei Tarkovsky.

“Bergman was the first to bring metaphysics — religion, death, existentialism — to the screen,” French film director Bertrand Tavernier was quoted as saying in the New York Times obituary for Bergman. “But the best of Bergman is the way he speaks of women, of the relationship between men and women. He’s like a miner digging in search of purity.”

Bergman retired from directing films for theatrical release in 1984 with his Academy Award-winning swan song “Fanny and Alexander,” but continued to work in the theater. He staged radical interpretations of plays by August Strindberg, Anton Chekhov and Yukio Mishima, as well as penning a number of novels and screenplays. He also continued to direct for television, releasing the film “Saraband” in 2003 for which Ullmann reprised her role from “Scenes from a Marriage.” It would mark the last time the couple would work together.

Ullmann began directing films in the early 1990s and based her film “Private Confessions” on a screenplay by Bergman. The collaboration signaled a new phase in the pair’s working relationship, and she would go on to direct “Faithless” from Bergman’s semi-autobiographical screenplay. She was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000 for the film.

The exhibition at Rosphoto is a joint project between the Consulate General of the Kingdom of Norway and the Consulate General of Sweden in St. Petersburg. A number of films will be screened throughout the run of the exhibition including four feature films, one TV program and two documentaries. The film program kicks off on Feb. 14 with the Russian premiere of “Liv and Ingmar Painfully Connected,” a 2012 documentary by the Indian film director Dheeraj Akolkar.

The only Bergman film on the program is “Scenes from a Marriage” from 1973 (Feb. 16 and March 30). All films will be shown with English subtitles and, at the first screening of each film, simultaneous Russian interpretation.

At 12 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 13, a roundtable discussion will be held at the Danish Cultural Institute that will examine the impact Bergman and Ullmann had on Swedish and Norwegian cinema. The discussion will be led by Jan Erik Holst of the Norwegian Film Institute and Jannike Olund of the Bergman Center on the Swedish island of Faro, where Bergman lived and worked for the last 40 years of his life.

“Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman. Photographs” runs from Feb. 14 through March 31 at Rosphoto, 35 Bolshaya Morskaya Ulitsa. Tel: 314 1214.

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