Nationality: Norwegian. Born: Liv Johanne Ullmann in Tokyo, Japan, to Norwegian parents, 16 December 1939. Education: Attended schools in Trondheim, Norway; studied acting in London for eight months. Family: Married 1) Gappe Stang, 1960 (divorced 1965); 2) Donald Saunders, 1985; one daughter by the director Ingmar Bergman. Career: Late 1950s—acted with a repertory company in Stavanger for three years; 1957—film debut in Fjols til Fjells; 1960—acted with the National Theatre and the Norwegian Theatre, both in Oslo; 1966—first of a series of films for Bergman. Awards: Swedish Gold Bug for Best Actress, for Skammen, 1969; Best Actress, New York Film Critics, for Cries and Whispers and The Emigrants, 1972; Best Actress, New York Film Critics, for Scenes from a Marriage, 1974; Best Actress, New York Film Critics, for Face to Face, 1976. Address: 15 West 81st Street, New York, NY 10024, U.S.A.
Films as Actress:
Fjols til Fjells (Fools in the Mountains) (Carlmar)
Ung flukt (Young Escape) (Carlmar)
Kort är Sommaren (Summer Is Short) (Henning-Jensen) (as Eva)
De kalte ham Skarven (They Call Him Skarven) (Gustavson) (as Ragna)
Persona (Bergman) (as Elisabeth Vogler)
Vargtimmen (Hour of the Wolf) (Bergman) (as Alma); An-Magritt (Skouen) (title role); Skammen (The Shame) (Bergman) (as Eva Rosenberg)
En Passion (A Passion; The Passion of Anna) (Bergman) (as Anna Fromm)
The Night Visitor (Benedek) (as Esther Jenks)
Pope Joan (Anderson) (title role); Viskningar och rop (Cries and Whispers) (Bergman) (as a sister); Utvandrarna (The Emigrants) (Troell) (as Kristina)
Nybyggarna (The New Land) (Troell) (as Kristina); Lost Horizon (Jarrott) (as Catherine); 40 Carats (Katselar) (as Ann Stanley); Scener ur ett äktenskap (Scenes from a Marriage) (Bergman—for TV) (as Marianne)
Zandy's Bride (Troell) (as Hannah Land); The Abdication (Harvey) (as Queen Christina); L'uomo dalle due ombre (De la part des copains; Cold Sweat) (Young) (as Fabienne); Léonor (Juan Buñuel) (title role)
Ansikte mot ansikte (Face to Face) (Bergman—for TV) (as Jenny)
A Bridge Too Far (Attenborough) (as Kate ter Horst); The Serpent's Egg (Das Schlangenei; Örmens ägg) (Bergman) (as Manuela Rosenberg)
Herbstsonate (Autumn Sonata) (Bergman) (as Eva); Couleur chair (Wyergans)
A Look at Liv (Kaplan—doc) (as herself)
The Gates of the Forest
Richard's Things (Harvey) (as Kate)
Children in the Holocaust (Eisner—doc) (as narrator); Jacobo Timerman (Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a Number) (Greene—for TV)
Jenny (Bronken—for TV); The Wild Duck (Safran) (as Gina); La Diagonale du fou (Dangerous Moves) (Dembo) (as Marina Fromm)
The Bay Boy (Petrie) (as Jennie Campbell); Ingrid (Annakin, Crabtree, and French)
Speriamo che sia femmina (Let's Hope It's a Girl) (Monicelli) (as Elena)
Gaby: A True Story (Mandoki) (as Sari Brimmer); Mosca Addio (Moscow Goodbye) (Bolognini) (as Ida Nudel)
La amiga (Meerapfel) (as Maria)
The Rose Garden (Rademakers) (as Gabriele Schlueter-Freund)
Mindwalk (Bernt Capra) (as Sonia Hoffman); The Ox (Nykvist) (as Maria)
The Long Shadow (Zsigmond) (as Katherine)
Drømspel (Dreamplay) (Unni Straume) (as ticket seller); Zorn (as Gunnar Hallström) (as Emma Zorn)
Lumière et compagnie (Lumière and Company)
Liv Ullmann scener fra et liv (Hambro)
Ljuset håller mig sällskap (Light Keeps Me Company) (Nykvist) (as herself)
Films as Director:
Sofie (+ sc)
Kristin Lavransdatter (+ sc)
Enskilda samtal (Private Confessions) (series for TV)
By ULLMANN: books—
Changing, London, 1977.
Choices, New York, 1984.
We, the Children, New York, 1990.
Letter to My Grandchild, New York, 1998.
By ULLMANN: articles—
Interview with A. Leroux, in Séquences (Montreal), July 1975.
"Jouer avec Bergman," interview with M. Ciment, in Positif (Paris), March 1978.
Interview with Virginia Wexman, in Cinema Journal (Evanston, Illinois), Fall 1980.
"We Are Good—Deep Down; But We Do So Little about It," in Glamour, January 1990.
"A New Career for Liv Ullmann," interview in New York Times, 4 October 1993.
Interview with Anneli Jordahl, in Chaplin (Stockholm), 36/2, 1994.
Interview with Jolanta Fajkowska, in Kino (Warsaw), November 1997.
On ULLMANN: books—
Olsen, Bjorn Gunnar, Jens Bjorneboe, Liv Ullmann og 16 andge intervjuet, Oslo, 1976.
Outerbridge, David, Without Makeup: Liv Ullmann: A Photo-Biography, New York, 1979.
On ULLMANN: articles—
Current Biography 1973, New York, 1973.
"Liv Ullmann," in Focus on Film (London), Spring 1973.
"Scénes de vie conjugale," in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), October 1975.
Raphaelson, S., "For the Love of Liv," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), May 1977.
Ecran (Paris), March 1978.
Lally, K., "Ullmann Turns to Directing with Period Saga of Sofie," in Film Journal (New York), May 1993.
* * *
From the mid-1960s, Liv Ullmann represented to American audiences a sensual and sophisticated screen presence that did not exist within Hollywood. Her earthy beauty was best utilized in a series of provocative films directed by her mentor, Ingmar Bergman.
Her film credits were few and minor—she had appeared in several little-known Norwegian features—when Ullmann first met Bergman in Stockholm. He offered her the principal role of the mute Elisabeth Vogler in the psychologically complicated and exacting study Persona. There followed not only an artistic collaboration between the director and actress, but for a time, a deep personal and emotional relationship. Persona gave Ullmann a great acting opportunity, and was both an artistic and personal success for her. "It was difficult," says Ullmann. "I prepared myself so that I read the script several times and I tried to divide it into certain sections. Bergman helped me a lot. He differs very much from what the majority of people think of him. People say that he is a demon, but it is not true at all. He simply knows whom to engage. He listens and then he tries to get the maximum from an actor."
Under Bergman's influence, Ullmann became an internationally recognized actress. In the films Persona, Hour of the Wolf, Shame, Cries and Whispers, Scenes from a Marriage, and Face to Face, she creates immensely complicated portraits of contemporary women. Able to communicate an entire range of emotions through minute details of action, she relies neither on sharp mimicry nor intensified vocal intonation in her portrayals. Nevertheless, she is capable of expressing urgency, sensitivity, and agitation by the slightest movement of her eyes. Ullmann interprets the feelings and inner actions of her heroines by suggestion. Although trained in the theater, her experience there is not evident, except perhaps in some long Bergmanesque dialogue passages in which, through her ardor, she is able to draw the audience into her own inner conflict. Ullmann's mastery of the dramatic consists precisely of the simplicity and realism of her expression.
While Ullmann is best known for her work with Bergman, she has performed equally exacting roles while working with other directors. In particular, her portrayal of the rural woman, Kristina, in The Emigrants and The New Land, Jan Troell's two-part film of immigrant life in 19th-century America, merits extraordinary attention. She also acted under Troell's direction in the psychological drama Zandy's Bride.
After the successes of these films, Ullmann accepted several American offers. Her appearances in such films as the musical version of Lost Horizon, 40 Carats, The Abdication, and A Bridge Too Far are tremendous disappointments to the art-house audiences who had followed her rise to stardom with Bergman.
Between films, Ullmann returns to the stage. "I think that one should not go from one film to another. It is no good. If I do not shoot, I write and meet friends. I make about two films per year and one theatrical play. This is a good working program." Ullmann has performed successfully on the stage in Norway, London, and other cities, in addition to her highly praised literary efforts. Most recently, she has worked behind the camera, having directed and scripted two well-received, similar-themed features: Sofie, the tale of a young woman in nineteenth-century Copenhagen who is unable to sever her constricting family ties; and Kristin Lavransdatter, set in the Middle Ages, in which a well-born young woman, betrothed to another from her class, disgraces her family upon falling in love with a knight.
These multiple achievements rank Ullmann on a high level of accomplishment—along with such actresses as Ingrid Thulin, Bibi and Harriet Andersson, and Gunnel Lindblom, she has made a remarkable contribution to Scandinavian film art.
—Vacláv Merhaut, updated by Audrey E. Kupferberg