Acclaimed actress, director and goodwill ambassador Liv Ullmann to speak at Fairfield University


Image: Liv UllmannLiv Ullmann, an award-winning actress, director and writer known for her unflinching search for honesty in characters, opens the 2003-04 season of Open VISIONS Forum, an outreach program of Fairfield University's University College, on Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 7:30 p.m. Ullmann, who starred in several classic Ingmar Bergman films, will speak at the university's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts.

An icon of arthouse cinema in the 1960s and 70s, Ullmann is hailed for her ability to portray emotionally wrought women, bringing a passion, intelligence and respect to her characters. In recent years she's channeled that uncommon energy into her work as a respected director, writer and a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and other human rights groups.

"Some artists use every moment. How can I do this? How can I note this down? How can I use it?" Ullmann told London's The Guardian about her craft. "There are some people that do that, but also just live. I would rather be of that kind. When you die and God says, 'What did you do in life?' you can't just say, 'I did good work.' You have to say a lot of other things as well."

Though a Norwegian citizen, Ullmann didn't set foot in her homeland until she was seven years old. Her father, a Norwegian engineer, was stationed in Japan when she was born and the family moved from there to Canada when World War II broke out. They finally returned to Norway in 1946.

Ullmann knew she wanted to act early on and attended the Webber-Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London. She began her career on the stage in Norway and, by the late 1950s won the lead role in the Norwegian production of "The Diary of Anne Frank."

It was both her acting ability and her striking resemblance to co-star Bibi Andersson that lead to her breakthrough role as a catatonic actress in Bergman's 1966 film "Persona." Their initial work relationship developed into romance for Bergman and Ullmann. The two lived together for several years and have a daughter, Linn Ullmann, who sometimes appears in her mother's films.

More importantly for filmgoers, Ullmann served as one of the Swedish master's most enduring muses, starring in such powerful films as "Face to Face," "Shame," and "Autumn Sonata." Ullmann won the New York Film Critics' Best Actress prize for both Bergman's "Scenes from a Marriage" and "Cries and Whispers." She was twice nominated for an Academy Award and won a Golden Globe for Jan Troell's "The Emigrants."

She has also appeared on stages around the world, including starring Broadway roles in "A Doll's House," "I Remember Mamma" and a 1977 revival of "Anna Christie."

Ullmann's ability to project a complex mix of compassion, honesty and emotion has made her a cinematic icon.

"Ullmann was always known," wrote Shane Danielson of The Guardian. "She projected a woman who laid herself open on the screen for us to see and seemed comfortable projecting the most naked and raw emotional states, and that's, I think, what we recognize in her and what many of us love and admire in her as well."

In the mid-1970s Ullmann used her celebrity status to aid children's causes around the world. A former Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, she was one of the first outsiders to visit refugee camps in Kampuchea and she helped draw attention to the then less-publicized famine in Ethiopia, where she was photographed with children in the mid-1980s. Ullmann, who was awarded UNICEF's Silver Statuette to commemorate more than 10 years of service, continues her advocacy efforts around the world.

In 1977, Ullmann penned her autobiography, "Changing," detailing her career and her relationship with Bergman. But it may have been premature, as she's continued to evolve in her work, even collaborating again with Bergman.

In 2001, she directed her fifth film, "Faithless," a Bergman-penned story about adultery that is based on actual events from his life. Ullmann said the collaboration made sense because they share a kind of emotional shorthand that helped inform the film.

"I never thought we'd work together again, and suddenly this came, and it's marvelous," Ullmann told Salon.com. "I think few people experience that. You have a love relationship in one field of the arts, and the suddenly you meet many years after and you have another love relationship. And with love, I mean artistic love."

In the 1990s, Ullmann helmed the theatrical releases "Sofie" and "Kristin Lauransdotter" and the 1996 Swedish TV miniseries "Enskilda Samtal." Always shunning the fast-paced, glitzy Hollywood style, she plans to continue directing features that delve into the human condition and universal truths.

"People have this haste: 'It can't be too long because then I have to go out and...' What do they have to do? Life is long!" she has said of her languid style. "Can't they give two hours, or more, and see if something changes in their life?"

Tickets are $22, $18.50 for senior citizens. For tickets, call the Quick Center box office at (203) 254-4010 or 1-877-ARTS-396. Those who wish to join Open VISIONS Patronage Circle, which offers priority seating and invitations to private, pre-lecture receptions and social events with the distinguished guests, should call Elizabeth Hastings at (203) 254-4000, ext. 2688.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on August 18, 2003

Vol. 36, No. 20