BFI celebrate actor, director and writer Liv Ullmann with new season

The BFI have announced full details of a celebration of the work of prolific actor, director and writer LIV ULLMANN, taking place throughout April 2022.

Highlights of LIV ULLMANN: FACE TO FACE will include a special event, Liv Ullmann In Conversation, at BFI Southbank on 8 April; a 50th anniversary BFI re-release of CRIES AND WHISPERS (Ingmar Bergman, 1972) in selected cinemas UK-wide from 1 April; a BFI Blu-ray release of FAITHLESS (Liv Ullmann, 2000) on 11 April; as well as selected films on BFI Player for one monthfrom 11 April. In addition to in person appearances from Ullmann, the BFI Southbank season will also feature introductions and Q&As with film programmers, journalists and curators including season programmer Sarah Lutton, BFI Festivals Director Tricia Tuttle, T A P E Collective’s Nellie Alston and film journalist Christina Newland.

The season coincides with Ullmann, one of contemporary cinema’s true greats, receiving an Honorary Academy Award for her exceptional contribution to the art of film over the past sixty years. It offers a welcome opportunity for audiences to enjoy and reconnect with her work as both actor and director, as well as hear from Ullmann herself during numerous special events and Q&As on 8 and 9 April. The season will explore Ullmann’s career from her debut in a leading role in THE WAYWARD GIRL (Edith Carlmar, 1959) and extensive work with Ingmar Bergman, to her Oscar-nominated performance in THE NEW LAND (Jan Troell, 1972) and recent directorial work such as MISS JULIE (Liv Ullmann, 2014). LIV ULLMANN: FACE TO FACE is programmed by Sarah Lutton, and presented in cultural partnership with the Norwegian Embassy and the Embassy of Sweden, London.


Liv Ullmann is widely known for her collaborations with director Ingmar Bergman, including CRIES AND WHISPERS (1972), a magnificently unconventional chamber piece starring Ullmann and Ingrid Thulin as sisters who have returned to their family’s home to tend to their dying sibling. Waiting for the inevitable, the sisters’ cold familiarity and lack of connection are thrown into sharp relief by the honest, abandoned love the family housemaid lavishes upon their dying sister. Stunningly enhanced by Sven Nykvist’s Oscar-winning cinematography, CRIES AND WHISPERS will be in selected cinemas UK-wide when BFI Distribution re-release the film from 1 April for its 50th anniversary and on BFI Player from 11 April. BFI Southbank’s regular Member Salon for BFI Members and their guests will discuss the simmering tensions of Bergman’s masterpiece on 4 April, while a screening of the film will be introduced by The i Newspaper’s Lead Film Critic Christina Newland on 3 April.

Further films screening in the season made with Ingmar Bergman, a creative partnership she called her ‘happiest dance’, will include the masterful PERSONA (Ingmar Bergman, 1966) starring Ullmann and Bibi Andersson as a patient and a nurse whose relationship and personalities begin to mirror and melt. A screening of PERSONA on 8 April will be introduced by Liv Ullmann, while BFI Festivals Director Tricia Tuttle will also introduce a screening on 30 March; the film will also be on BFI Player from 11 April. Also screening will be SHAME (Ingmar Bergman, 1968), Ullmann’s first collaboration with Max von Sydow, an acting partnership she considers one of the most important in her life; Catharine Des Forges, Director of the Independent Cinema Office, will introduce a screening of the film on 5 April. On 14 April BFI Programmer at Large Geoff Andrew will introduce THE PASSION OF ANNA (Ingmar Bergman, 1969), a film that explores the emotional and psychological interactions of four interlinked characters played by many of Bergman’s regular company of actors.

Originally a six-part TV miniseries, SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE (Ingmar Bergman, 1973) was subsequently edited into a feature-length cinema version that will screen during the season. Created in the era of second-wave feminism, amidst rising divorce rates, this piercing portrait of a disintegrating marriage struck a chord with many audiences; recently remade with Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac playing the roles originated by Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson, this is an opportunity for audiences to see Bergman’s tender and heart-breaking original. Ullmann earned an Oscar nomination for her exquisite performance as a psychiatrist experiencing a breakdown in FACE TO FACE (Ingmar Bergman, 1976); originally made for TV and told in four parts (the TV version being the version screened in the season), her childhood memories, trauma, and feelings of guilt increasingly chafe and overwhelm. A screening on 17 April will be introduced by season programmer Sarah Lutton.

In AUTUMN SONATA (Ingmar Bergman, 1978) Ullmann plays Eva, the adult daughter of Ingrid Bergman’s Charlotte, who she has not seen in years. Their blistering exchanges of home truths offers one of the most complete and honestly performed explorations of the themes that Ingmar Bergman repeatedly returned to: maternal guilt, compassion, and the desire for connection. A screening on 9 April will be followed by a Q&A with Liv Ullmann, while an extended intro by Bird’s Eye View Director Melanie Iredale will precede a screening on 26 April. Ullmann’s final collaboration with Bergman was his last film, SARABAND (2003), made for television. Peppered with familiar visual and thematic motifs, SARABAND is a continuation of sorts of SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE, revisiting characters Marianne and Johan some 30 years later.

Away from her work with Bergman, the season will also showcase Ullmann’s work with fellow Norwegian pioneer Edith Carlmar and Oscar-nominated Swedish filmmaker Jan Troell, as well as her own directorial work. Her first leading role in THE WAYWARD GIRL (1959), as a 17-year-old free spirit who runs away with her boyfriend, saw Ullmann work with Norway’s first female film director, Edith Carlmar. Some considered her sympathetic characterisation of a ‘delinquent’ girl scandalous, and although less shocking now, it remains a thought-provoking take on rebellion and sexual liberation. Screenings on 28 March and 21 April will be introduced by Invisible Women Archive Activists and film critic Anna Smith respectively. Working with legendary Norwegian director Arne Skouen, Ullmann is outstanding in the title role of AN-MAGRITT (Arne Skouen, 1969), an adaptation of Johan Falkberget’s 17th-century-set novel series; born out of trauma, but unwilling to be defined by it, An-Magritt is a hard-working survivor who defies the expectations of her gender and social class.

As a Norwegian, Ullmann was a contentious choice for the role of Swedish emigrant Kristina in Jan Troell’s adaptations of Vilhelm Moberg’s beloved novel series THE EMIGRANTS (Jan Troell, 1971), but Moberg would only consider Ullmann. Part one of this epic story begins in mid-19th-century rural Sweden, where hardship is endured only through the hope of a better future in America. The second part THE NEW LAND (Jan Troell, 1972) sees Kristina and her husband establishing their family in Minnesota. Elegantly composed, with compelling performances from Ullmann (garnering her first Oscar nomination) and Max von Sydow, THE EMIGRANTS and THE NEW LAND were jointly awarded the Golden Globe for Best Foreign-Language Film in 1973. A screening of THE EMIGRANTS on 16 April will be introduced by season programmer Sarah Lutton.

As a director, Liv Ullmann has a remarkable ability to nurture truly distinctive performances from her actors. Based on a loosely autobiographical script by Ingmar Bergman, FAITHLESS (Liv Ullmann, 2000) was Ullmann’s fourth feature as director. Filled with powerful performances, it features Erland Josephson as ‘Bergman’, an ageing director who summons actor Marianne (played by Lena Endre) from his imagination; but ‘Bergman’ becomes increasingly unsettled as he conjures more episodes from Marianne’s life, including the dramatic fall-out from an affair. Ahead of a BFI Blu-ray release of FAITHLESS on 11 April there will be a screening on 9 April with an extended introduction from Liv Ullmann, while Nellie Alston, freelance programmer and member of T A P E Collective will introduce a screening on 23 April; the film will also be available on BFI Player from 11 April. Completing the line-up will be MISS JULIE (Liv Ullmann, 2014) starring Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell and Samantha Morton. Adapting and directing, Ullmann relocates August Strindberg’s 1888 play to County Fermanagh; Chastain is Miss Julie, the daughter of a wealthy Anglo-Irish landowner, who attempts to seduce her father’s valet John (Colin Farrell). Flirtation soon turns to a dangerous conflict of power, sex and class, gravely observed by John’s lover Kathleen (Samantha Morton), the moral heart of the tale. Elaine Wong, short film programmer for the BFI London Film Festival, will introduce a screening of the film on 29 April.

As Liv Ullmann is awarded an Honorary Academy Award for her enormous contribution to cinema, this season offers audiences a timely opportunity to explore how, face to face with fellow actors, and empathetically close when directing, Ullmann breathes a contagious creativity into her art.

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