“You have to remove all the preconceptions and clichéd relationships one has to it and come to it fresh. I can’t imagine any other director doing that as fearlessly as Liv has done” says Cate Blanchett to W magazine when taking one of her favourite film-directors in mind. Before entering a new world outside of Bergman’s nest, Ullmann had issues with seeing herself as an independent film director. According to herself before succeeding as a director, she thought she was nothing outside of him. But after national and international recognition and acknowledgement, awards and prizes for different films inspired by some of Bergman’s scripts – Liv does not only proceed Bergman’s legacy, but she conveys her own authentic and expressive style to filmmaking which makes her unequalled.
Faithless is more than being unfaithful
We are in a movie-directors house on the Swedish Island “Fårö”. We are re looking out of the window at the idyllic Scandinavian landscape and ocean. We are self-analysing our inside in order to find our special tone and personal memoir. We are beyond all doubt in the psyche, scope and overall cosmos of the Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman. The struggle of finding our story is shown by a middle-aged movie director (Erland Josephson). Along his side he has his biggest key to success – his muse, who is inspiring him to find his tone again.
In the introduction of the movie a title is showing: “Divorce is the most painful thing that can happen and succinctly describing the pain that divorce causes.” With this quote the tone of the film is being set. Throughout the almost 150 minutes long drama Faithless, we are following the risk-full venture and consequences through the narrative of Marianne’s (Lena Endre) perspective. Marianne is an actress and married to an orchestra conductor Markus (Thomas Hanzon) who loco motes around the globe with his work. The couple have a close friend David (Kristor Henriksson). One night while Markus is away, Marianne comforts him and invites him over for a late evening snack. And then it happens. A hunger that is shown as a craving for lecherousness happens. Though the lust is for the viewer as well as for the characters very clear, they did not do anything about at that moment. The morning after it is clear that Marianne is trapped, she is in love and there is nothing she can do about it. Faithless in this context is not about being without a religious faith or being unfaithful, but rather being unworthy of faith or trust. The affair between David and Marianne, which started in Paris, is being brought back to Stockholm as an expensive business with more victims and losers than imaginable. The true victim is the nine-year-old daughter Isabelle, who is betrayed. The dangerous and betraying world Marianne was so drawn to is now drastically changing her husband, her child and everyone who is involved in her life, for the worse.
Violent and without bounds
The beautiful and famed actor Liv Ullmann and the older film-director Bergman fell in love while making their first film together, the ground-breaking Persona from 1966. Despite their love story only survived for 5 years, their partnership persisted until his death, in 2007. On a mutual inspirational work level they had a tight bond. As husband and wife they damaged each other on a mental and personal level. In Ullmann’s memoir “Changing” she describes Bergman’s jealousy as “violent and without bounds.” Where she used to be the star in his films, the roles have suddenly switched and now he is the star in her movie “Faithless” which is said is to be based on his life.
In “Faithless” we are attracted more to understand the world of the women, rather than the world of men. Marianne appears in the movie like a muse, that brings the director’s own story to live. While speaking about her own tale, she is indirectly encouraging him to write his personal and pain-filled story down on paper. In real life Ullmann appeared as a muse to her film-director spouse as well. Though she is feeling lucky to have been‘seen’ by Bergman, she also mentions to W-magazine that she was frequently used in his work as his alter ego. Furthermore she explains that it is hard to have a full understanding of your partner, and know how to use it in a creative manner. Bergman had that special gift which only he could use against her in a devastating way. He secretly copied parts from Ullmann’s diary that he then used in Scenes from a marriage as a dialogue. When she found out, she was devastated.
Children come first
Bergman had a lot of children and a lot of ex-wives who he needed to support. He was a productive man in writing, giving reviews and directing both theatre and movies. Directing 57 movies and 171 state productions, was not only for his own pleasure but also to provide for his huge family. One thing that Ullmann truly admires about her former partner is that he’s got the creative imagination of a child. A thing he eventually taught her along the way. She learned from many of his lessons, but primarily that you are still allowed to play, use your creative imagination and everything you did as a child. This lesson was first learned when she moved behind the camera, where she was confronted with it herself. Bergman is known for not sparing the audience when it comes to explicit sex-scenes, or scenes with pain in. “Faithless” is no exception, and Ullmann continues in her own way to maintain the explicit sexual and painful scenes in the essence of Bergman, in which the audiences feel sick in their gut when they leave the theatre. Bergman wrote the script with Lena Endre in mind as Marianne, a perfect choice for the character. With her sublime performance, expressly mimic and long monologues – her verbal version of the story is more fascinating than the actual events. Next to her, men are vague and silly, as most of the men are in Bergman’s universe. She is so riveting that her facial-expression changes and matches every situation of her story – united with the cold, warm, light and dark landscape of Fårö.
It was love at first sight
Though the observer ‘Bergman’ is feeling alive again through his muse Marianne, it is also clearly portrayed that the landscape has a significant influence on the story. The landscape and the island Fårö is Bergman’s longest love – it lasted for 40 years. Fårö is in the story being used as a frame for Bergman’s own memory. The island destroyed the relationship between Ullmann and Bergman in the end. Ullmann left and Bergman stayed there till his death in 2007. “Nothing existed outside ourselves. We had a little child there, and he (Bergman) didn’t want people to visit, and he didn’t like leaving me either. It was very tough.” Ullmann recalls how the island isolated the family and their relationship in a wrong way. So, the true victim like Isabelle in Faithless was her child. Though Ullmann felt isolated and claustrophobic on the island – on contrast, it was love at first sight for Bergman. He thought that the island had a sense of peace, inspiration and freedom that gave him a strong desire to create, work, read and watch films. Bergman and the inhabitants were one. One of mutual love and respect for each other.
Changing and choices
Ullmann knew that despite of their separation and that they never would be husband and wife again, they never would be apart either. “I was right – we never did leave each other,” she mentions to W-magazine “You know, soon after we met, Ingmar told me he had a dream that we would be painfully connected.” and they certainly were. Ullmann wrote two influencing memoirs, Changing and Choices.In 1976 Ullmann’s memoir ‘Changing’ was published and entered the bestseller list. She mentions herself that confessionals are boring. Therefore she intended to make a piece that miserable people felt better from by reading, because it makes a person’s soul greyer. An honest piece about her way to get in touch with her inner thoughts and feelings and how to learn from these. About her love, lust, most of her affairs and her work in different fields. Interestingly, she writes about her thoughts and fascination about Bergman whom she refers to as “the brain”. She wrote everything ingenious down he had to say. He very much inspired her, and had an impact on her personal development. A personal development that altered her love for acting to a love for directing: ”The older one gets in this profession… The more people there are with whom one would never work again”.
“Faithless” occurs like a filmic memoir of Bergman. The main-character is actually named Bergman, he is a film-director, he lives on Fårö and he is playing and fantasising together with his muse. Just he did with his real-life muse Liv. It is not until the end, that we know the directors real name, but Bergman-enthusiasts have probably guessed it earlier. Bergman himself was content with the outcome of the movie, and mentioned that Liv fulfilled the essence of the script. The movie consists of sensational imagery, outstanding acting, tremendous instruction and a dialogue that will stay with you forever. Ullmann, as well as the cast chosen for the film, wisely use the rhythm, tempo and the light. Bergman and Ullmann collaborate by taking us on a journey of inner and outer personalities and feelings, convincing the audience about their knowledge in themes of love, betrayal, believing and the breakdown of the modern family. Bergman portraits love, relationships and lust as writing blockade. To cure this you need to have self-insight, drawing parallels to different corners in memory and the brain in order to successfully write. If you did not know better, you could be tempted to call “Faithless”Scenes from a Marriage vol. 2. They both thematize the same themes like the breakdown of a marriage thath involve unfaithfulness and sacrifices. Though the themes and the style frequently share similarities, there is no doubt that Ullmann made her own artistic creation as a director.