Jose here. The first thing I tell Liv Ullmann is that I remember being ten years old and having my father introduce me to the work of Ingmar Bergman.
That Swedish legend directed her in more than ten films including Persona, Cries and Whispers, and Face to Face for which she was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. She offers me a warm smile, touches my shoulder and says “oh, thank you”. During our conversation I realize how much she “talks” with her hands, which she uses to draw figures on a table, to mimic camera moves and also to touch her face in an expression of awe, as she talks about the work of the actors she directed in her adaptation of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie (opening today in NYC).
She hadn’t directed a film in almost fifteen years (since 2000’s Faithless), but was compelled to return behind the cameras when she was given carte blanche by producers who asked her to make a film about a femme fatale. She chose Strindberg’s classic because she felt there was much that still hadn’t been said about the title character. As played by Jessica Chastain Miss Julie is a rebellious soul who pretends to be in control, but has little self awareness. She finds her true self through the way she treats her servants John and Kathleen, played by Colin Farrell and Samantha Morton respectively.
Ullmann moved the story to 1890 Ireland where she felt the socio-economic inequality between the characters made more sense than in Sweden. She unleashes the three characters in a castle straight out of the most existential version of Hamlet and infuses the text with color, both literal and figurative, to make the most compelling version of Miss Julie to be put on screen, a tribute to Bergman, Strindberg and a reminder that Ullmann’s work both behind and in front of the camera is always a pleasure to watch. She talked about her cast with passion, explained her thoughts on conveying physical space on film. And she even talked some Carrie Bradshaw! [after the jump]