Ingmar Bergman was very funny: Liv Ullmann

Fårö Island: Theirs was one of the most powerful screen partnerships in cinema. Even today actress Liv Ullmann`s grey eyes sparkle as she recalls her days with Swedish legend Ingmar Bergman, saying it is hard to believe that a man known for his dark, brooding films could be so "playful and funny".

"I had an incredibly creative relationship with him," Liv, looking radiant in the summer sun even at 71, told reporters.

Liv acted in many Bergman films starting with "Persona" in 1966 and ended up directing two scripts by Bergman. They never married, but lived together for five years and had a daughter, Lynn.

She said, "He was a very playful person. You wouldn`t think that a playful man would have written the kind of serious films that he did. But he was indeed very playful and funny."

A picture of grace in a grey top and black pants, Liv was attending the Bergman Week organised annually in Fårö Island, which was Bergman`s home for over 40 years and where he shot most of his later films.

She recalls a time during the shooting of her film, "Private Confessions", based on a script by Bergman during which he had interfered with the editing. After that she was determined not to let him do that again.

"Sometimes I gave in to his demands and gave away something I really liked, but sometimes I did the woman thing, I cried...In the end, the tears worked and I kept what I liked," she says naughtily of "Private Confessions".

Her second film based on Bergman`s script was "Faithless" and this time the legend was not allowed on the sets of her movie.

"When I was doing `Faithless`, I was not going to take that chance. I promised Ingmar that I wouldn`t change a word from his script, but I asked him not to come on the set or during the editing. He did not like this at all and pleaded to me asking to come on the last day of the shooting. I agreed," Liv said.

"However, I did not tell anyone he was coming. He came just before lunch and Lena Endre, who plays the lead, had gone for lunch and in the next scene she was coming to meet her lover in a hotel bed. And Ingmar said `may be I can be under the cover` and he hid inside the cover.

"So when Lena came, the camera rolled and she removed the cover and out popped Ingmar, startling her. It was hilarious. Everyone on the set laughed for 45 minutes. Ingmar loved it so much and I have it in my heart how happy he was that day," she said.

She narrated another funny incident about the time when Bergman was in New York to see her Broadway musical.

Woody Allen, who was a friend of Liv and worshiped Bergman, begged to meet him. So she arranged for a dinner of the two great directors. Strangely though, neither said a word during dinner.

"It`s wonderful to see when two geniuses meet. During dinner they would look at each other admiringly and then look around shyly. Neither uttered a word.

The dinner was over, the two shook hands and on way to my home, Woody Allen says to me `Thank you Liv`. And the moment I come home, I got Bergman`s call who said, `Thank you Liv. It was a great meeting.`"

Liv laughs when she narrates this incident. Of course, there is a Woody Allen version of the story in circulation where he is supposed to have told Liv what an interesting conversation he had with Bergman!

The theme of Bergman Week from June 29-July 4 was "Dark days and bright nights". It focussed on the stark contrasts in Bergman`s films, where on one side one had bright entertaining comedies like "Smiles of a Summer Night" and on the other side we see evil and demons unleashed in masterpieces like "Hour of the Wolf" and "A Passion".

A documentary film made by Stig Björkman from behind the scenes footage donated by Bergman before his death also highlights the funny side of Bergman.

In the film `... but Film is My Mistress`, which had a Swedish premiere July 1 in Fårö Island, we see how Bergman allowed his actors to relax and laugh and make merry on the sets.

This documentary and Liv`s comments paint a very different picture of a man known for his dark, brooding films. Bergman died in 2007.



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