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Liv Ullmann talks about Ingmar Bergman

Actress-director Liv Ullmann, pictured at the Chicago premiere of "Miss Julie" in 2014.Getty Images/file

When she and director Ingmar Bergman were shooting “Persona” on an island off the coast of Sweden, actress Liv Ullmann said neither of them had any idea if it would be a good movie, let alone a great one. Fifty years later, it’s considered by some to be Bergman’s masterpiece, which is saying something since three of the director’s movies won best foreign film Oscars — but “Persona” wasn’t among them.

“We had a wonderful summer on this little island and we made this sweet little movie,” Ullmann said Friday. “If no one talked about it, that would be fine. Then it had incredible success and [Bergman] said, ‘Oh my God.’ This is how it is with great artists. Sometimes they make great masterpieces.”


Tuesday, the Coolidge Corner Theater will screen “Persona,” in which Ullmann plays a renowned stage and screen actress who has inexplicably gone mute and is cared for by a chatty young nurse. After the screening, the Norwegian actress, who lives part-time on the North Shore, will talk with Globe critic Ty Burr about her long and interesting career.

Ullmann, 77, is often referred to as Bergman’s muse because she appeared in 11 of the celebrated director’s films. It’s an apt characterization, she says modestly.

“It’s not that I was better,” Ullmann says. “It was because my face could say what he wanted to say. That made me the one he wanted to work with. And it was not just women. I took some [Bergman] movies away from Max von Sydow because it was my face and I also understood what he was writing.”

Bergman died in 2007 and Ullmann feels his absence.

“I have a sadness and I’m feeling it more and more,” she said. “I always had him, who believed in me so incredibly, and now I don’t have that and sometimes it makes it difficult. I can’t call him and say, ‘What do you think?’”


Ullmann continues to work. She’s directed several plays, including a production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” starring Cate Blanchett, and directed the 2014 film “Miss Julie,” starring Jessica Chastain and Colin Farrell. That experience taught her a few things.

“I really learned what it means to be a woman and work with producers who go over your head and do things you don’t know about,” she said. “You have no power and that is very sad.”

Asked if there are young actresses whose work she admires, Ullmann said there are many. Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, who won a best supporting actress Academy Award for her performance in “The Danish Girl,” is one.

“I love this woman,” Ullmann said. “I just think she is carrying so much depth and clarity and purity.”

Tuesday’s screening at the Coolidge starts at 7 p.m.

Names can be reached at names@globe.com. Follow Mark Shanahan on Twitter @MarkAShanahan.