best film:  Discussing Liv Ullmann’s best film really requires one to talk about Ingmar Bergman’s best. She is not in The Seventh Seal (made nearly a decade before they started collaborating) so that is out. She is not in Fanny and Alexander, either. But Bergman’s best single film is Persona so that is the answer here. Cries & Whispers is not far behind Persona. It is likely that both Persona and Cries & Whispers are two of the best fifty (50) films of all-time- and Liv is simply spectacular in both.


at 28-years-old Liv Ullmann would become a sensation with her breakthrough performance and first archiveable film in Persona


best performance:  Persona is also the answer here but there is very little separating Ullmann’s top eight performances. Ullmann is mute for almost the entirety of Persona– this is not a safe performance. It was her first collaboration with Bergman, and she gives Persona and the role the edge (it helps that she is not part of his regular trope at the time- adds to her mystery) it needs.


stylistic innovations/traits:  Ullmann’s face as a canvas in closeup (and Bergman’s tasteful staging closeup variants) is the crux of much of Bergman’s cinema. Whether it was black and white photography (Persona, Shame), color (those green eyes brought out in The Passion of Anna, Cries and Whispers), mad crazy, outgoing, pensive… it did not really matter. She proved she could do it without Bergman in The Emigrants and that is key to at least have one film. The argument against Ullmann is that she is propped up here but Bergman and their collaborations but that is a slippery slope when talking about this list. Ullmann’s strength is that she is the only female actor with five mentions as one of the year’s best actors (1966, 1968, 1972, 1973, and 1978). It is fun to watch Ullmann go toe to toe with the greatest actress of all-time in Ingrid Bergman in Autumn Sonata and hold her own. She also battles with the great Max von Sydow several times throughout their career.

from 1968’s Shame. Ullmann comes out of relative obscurity to outduel the likes of even the great Max von Sydow.

Bergman’s penchant for closeups certainly did not hurt his trope of actors– but not actor was featured as often as Ullmann- this one from Cries & Whispers.

directors worked with:Ingmar Bergman with nine (9).  She has eleven (11) films in the archives total and a whopping nine are with Bergman. Bergman was simply one of the best select few best auteurs of all-time and not only that- but he was also an actor’s director. He loved dialogue, closeups, and working with actors – more so than Kubrick or Hitchcock who are two of the auteurs ranked ahead of Bergman on the all-time time director’s list.

another frequent collaborator- Erland Josephson- together here in Scenes from a Marriage


top ten performances:

  1. Persona
  2. Scenes From a Marriage
  3. Cries and Whispers
  4. Shame
  5. Autumn Sonata
  6. The Passion of Anna
  7. The Emigrants
  8. Face to Face
  9. Saraband
  10. Hour of the Wolf


Autumn Sonata really wraps up Ullmann’s miraculous run from 1966-1978


archiveable films

1966- Persona
1968- Hour of the Wolf
1968- Shame
1969- The Passion of Anna
1971- The Emigrants
1972- Cries and Whispers
1973- Scenes from a Marriage
1976- Face to Face
1977- A Bridge Too Far
1978- Autumn Sonata
2003- Saraband