Liv Ullmann Still Loves The Camera

Actress Liv Ullmann rose to international fame
in the 1960s and ’70s, celebrated for her intensely raw
and emotional portrayals on film, especially in those of groundbreaking director
Ingmar Bergman. Ullmann became his muse, and for a time,
he became her partner. She starred in 11 of his films,
includingCries and Whispers.>>(speaking Swedish):>>BOWEN:
How Liv Ullmann arrived at performances like that one is where our recent conversation
started. We also talked about
her collaborations with Bergman and her passion
for helping refugees. Liv Ullmann, it’s such
a pleasure to have you here.>>(chuckles softly) It’s a pleasure
to see you again.>>BOWEN: I recently read
your bookChanging,and, as I always say,
I’m so interested in process. And one thing in particular
really struck me, where you talk about the love of breaking yourself down
into pieces for your craft, how that, that is, was–
maybe still is– one of the most enjoyable parts
of the job for you. Tell me about what that means, what you have to do
for a character.>>I always feel
I’m a very natural actor, but I’m using myself. And obviously, I go into things
within myself that is never part
of my daily life. And also hate and,
and anger at people, and, and loss. And maybe I, at the time
when I wrote the book, would say
I’m breaking myself down to find those pieces
within myself. But in a way, it’s good, because
they are all pieces of myself. And if I never use them, maybe they will be there
and make havoc in my life. But I’ve been able to, to come
out with a lot of aggression; I’ve been able to come out
with a lot of sorrow. And the good thing about it is,
when I have it, I can use it again and again
on the stage.>>BOWEN: In thinking about
your films and connecting, it’s made me wonder
how you looked at those roles
that you were doing, and, and how raw and emotional
they were.Scenes from a Marriage,
how they were showing people…themselves, essentially. When they would
go to the movie theater and see you in this big screen, and how, how… How raw the emotion would be.>>(shouting in Swedish) Emotions within all of us,
they are raw, and we want to be seen,
and we want to be understood, because there’s so much more
than what is there on the, on the surface. And we used to make movies
like that. But now more and more movies,
it’s not raw anymore. What we are faced with
is hate and anger and, and…
complete indifference for what is going on
in our world.>>BOWEN: Well,
when you were making the films with Ingmar Bergman, was that the intention
in, in depicting that rawness
of these characters?>>I think the rawness
of the world surprised him more and more. And I think when he decided to retreat from Stockholm,
where he lived, and retreat completely
to his island, and never leave the island
again, because that was a place that he knew will never
leave back again, I think he was also
becoming an islander, a man who is there and would not
let himself be disturbed. It was a lonely life, but he
made up his mind, this assist, and he lived there
almost ten years without creating anything except
writing in his diaries and so…>>BOWEN: How much of that
did you take on for yourself, in being in a relationship
with him, thinking like him,
being directed by him?>>I’m not thinking like him. I, I really am not. But I understood him. I really understood him,
and, and… And he understood me. A lot. And I think that’s why I was
easy to work with for him, because he didn’t have
to explain things, you know. And for him, it was always
important to give a script and say, “It’s there
in the script, and you are… Now you show me.” And a lot of people ask,
and they… “What was the background?”
and so… Oh, he hated that,
he hated that. I was easy. Not that I was more talent… had more talent or thing
than anyone else, but I was an easy prop to put in
there, and there’s the camera, and I loved the camera. I could be.>>BOWEN:
When you say you could just be, did it not feel like work? Did you not have to do
a lot to, to get there?>>No, no. It was to have a listener. And that is what
my profession is like, and probably very much
your profession. It is to be in front of a camera
or be on the stage and be the listener.>>BOWEN:
As somebody who is not an actor, I wonder how, how it can
just rest right there. How you can always tap into it, especially if you’re walking
onto a stage where you have a cold one day, or you just had
a distracting phone call. But you can still access it.>>I think I’ve been very lucky and I’ve been able
to access it… always. The only time– honestly, I’ve never said this
before– it happened to me in Norway,
and I played the devil. And for once in my life, and it’s the first time
it happened, insecurity came. And then somebody told me
about the devil and said, “You know, God sent him down
to Earth, “because devil used to be
the favorite angel of God, “and then the devil wasn’t good, and the devil was sent
to the Earth.” And I started to feel very sorry
about the devil, and I, I tried to make the devil
a very old people who’s… person who’s never seen anymore. And I did all kinds of
strange things with this devil. And I had to dance,
and I was looking up at God, and I wonder, “Why did you
send me down like this?” It was strange and it… Nobody has told me– but they wouldn’t tell you– I, I wasn’t good,
I don’t think…>>BOWEN: You don’t think
that worked, even with that nuance?>>Because it wasn’t a nuance. I rewrote the devil into
somebody who’s, who’s not seen, who’s not recognized,
who doesn’t belong anymore. And I didn’t break myself down.>>BOWEN: You’ve been doing this
refugee work for about 40 years, and, and visiting people
in countries. Do, do you see that
people are any more responsive than when you started this work?>>No, and I’m not, either. And a lot of people
don’t do anything, and at times,
I don’t do anything. No, because the proudest time
of my life was 40 years ago, when I was in a refugee camp
in Hong Kong. And they let us in, and people were not supposed
to be let in, and we had
a horrible experience. And we made a company, Women’s Commission
for Refugee Women and Children. And we thought,
I thought at the airport, when I told the journalists, “This is how it looks like
in a, in a refugee camp. “When you’re supposed
to give birth to a child, “you have to tell them
two months in front, “and then they will send you to
prison and you give birth there, and then you’re taking back.” And when we were there,
a woman started to give birth, and it was seven months, so
she wasn’t sent to the prison, and they bound her legs and took the two-hour travel
to the prison and the child died, of course. It couldn’t come out. And, and we told all of this at the press conference
in Hong Kong, and we were thrown out of the,
of the country. And it’s the proudest time
in my life at that time. But it’s happening now, the same things
are happening now. Children are living
behind fences, and they are drinking
toilet water, and they… their mother
and father are gone, they don’t even know
where they are. It’s happening. It’s, my thing wasn’t special. Because it’s special
the next day and the next day, and it’s, it’s special today.>>BOWEN:
You’re very inspiring, and it’s wonderful to speak
with you, especially for your passion. Thank you so much
for being here.>>Thank you.

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