Saturday, April 30, 2011

Liv Ullmann in The Emigrants

Liv Ullmann received her first Best Actress nomination and became an international superstar by playing Kristina, a poor peasant woman in Jan Troell's movie, The Emigrants. I'm sometimes so surprised by the Golden Globes. They usually give their awards to American stars and yet they picked Liv over Diana Ross and Cicely Tyson. As a result, some even predicted Ullmann for the win back then. I think she was third or fourth but I imagine she may have even been second. BTW, if you read her memoir called 'Changes' you can read so many details about the ceremony and her feelings and Diana Ross' crying (she doesn't mention a name).

The Emigrants is a great but a bit long movie that is a bit slower sometimes than it should be. It can get really depressing occasionally like when they get on the boat. It's not great to see people suffering, especially when you know that such things actually happened in real life. I have to admit, though, that the suffering and misery became too much to be taken really seriously after a while. There are so many tragadies that you become a bit neutral eventually. Interesting enough, this was one of Ingmar Bergman's favorite movies. Max Von Sydow gives a great performance and I think he would have deserved a Best Actor nomination for his work here.

Liv Ullmann is one of my favorite actresses. It might also be the fact that Ingmar Bergman is my favorite director and she played in many of his best movies. In fact, I had only seen Ullmann in Bergman movies before I watched The Emigrants. So I was wonderfing if I would love here just as much as I loved her in, say, Autumn Sonata or Persona. The thing I love about her is that she can show so many aspects of human pain and suffering. She's a beautiful woman but whenever we see something bad happening to her, she can be so ugly and painfully ordinary. I love the changes on her face and everything. In short, she's a brilliant actress.

When we first see Kristina, she's a beautiful but somewhat distant young girl on a swing. Ullmann's beauty shines through the screen and it's just a joy to look at her. In many ways, this role is not different from what she usually plays. But Kristina's character is much warmer and more loveable than the character that Liv played with Bergman. Ullmann is one of the least technical actresses. Just like most of the famous European actresses, she's very emotional and a cares more about the emotional aspect of a character. As a result, we get very emotional performances from her. You can see that she shows all the necessary emotions with her body: her lips, fingers and most importantly, her eyes.

The Emigrants consists of two parts. The first part is really terrific, quite harrowing and the second part gets quite boring after a while. There's a parallel between Ullmann's performance and the movie. In the first part, Ullmann is incredible but in the secondd part she gets too much in the background and becomes a bit uninteresting in the end. Actually, she's not even uninteresting, she just doesn't get anything to do after a while. She's not even on the screen, which is a huge mistake as she's the heart and soul of this movie. The Emigrants is an epic movie and even the most talented performers can get lost in an epic. You need an exceptionally interesting character like Scarlett O'Hara to always be effective in an epic. Ullmann's Kristina is not such a character. She's very interesting because how ordinary she is but she's not a huge character enough.

However, a huge actress can replace a huge character to a degree. And Liv Ullmann is an amazing actress. Her performance in the first part (as I said) is just fantastic. All the emotions are handled so well by Ullmann and she's so brilliant at showing Kristina's suffering and pain. There's a very tragic event (the movie gives clues at the beginning) and Liv's reaction is mindblowing. She's very unusual but the whole thing is quite amazing. I was thinking 'OMG! She's brilliant!'. I was totally taken by Liv's effective acting.

But again, she doesn't have enough screentime. There are moments in the second part that are terrific like the one when she's looking for her lost daughter and becomes hysterical. It's also really heartwrenching to see her struggles on the ship where she becomes really sick. As I said, Liv is also brilliant in these scenes but the pieces of the puzzle cannot get together as much as in the first half because the movie doesn't let Liv succeed.

Still, Liv Ullmann is really great as Kristina in The Emigrants. It's not her best performance and it's true that she's the best with Bergman but it would be very unjust to deny her merits in The Emigrants. Although the movie works against her, Ullmann was able to make a lasting impression and have a great effect on me. It's very effective acting by a terrific talent.
This migth seem more than the review might suggest but I think this performance is a strong 4,5.

What do you think? Time for your last predictions! :)


Louis Morgan said...

Well I guess my predictions will alternate just slightly.

1. Minnelli
2. Ullmann
3. Smith
4. Tyson
5. Ross

Anonymous said...

I'm going to stick by my original picks, even though I know you love Maggie.

And I am dying to see Ullmann.

dinasztie said...

Derek: You can watch Liv on Youtube, on kkiimmiissiipp's terrific channel. She's not as great as in Shame, by which you were so impressed as you said.

I can't wait to see the brilliant Dame Maggie. :)