‘Unquiet’ by Linn Ullmann – Life With Father


‘Unquiet’ by Linn Ullmann (2015) – 388 pages                              

        Translated from the Norwegian by Thilo Reinhard

To my mind there is no question that ‘Unquiet’ is a memoir rather than a novel as it has been labeled. It is an account of Linn Ullmann’s memories of her famous father Ingmar Bergman and to a lesser extent her mother actress Liv Ullmann who starred in ten Bergman movies.

I went through a long Ingmar Bergman phase during which I watched many of his movies. I found that each of his movies had a depth that I hungered for. My favorite of his movies is ‘Smiles of a Summer Night’ which was based on Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and which Bergman made fairly early in his career. I watched and was impressed by many other of his movies.

In 1965, Bergman made a movie called ‘Persona’ with a new actress, Liv Ullmann, as one of the stars. Bergman and Liv Ullmann soon began a relationship. Bergman was 48, and Ullmann was 27. Linn Ullmann, born in 1966, was Ingmar Bergman’s ninth and youngest child. The nine children had five different mothers.

Bergman and Liv Ullmann only stayed together unmarried until 1969 at which time they separated. After that the child Linn lived with her mother but stayed at her father’s summer home at Hammars on the island of Faro for one month each summer during her childhood.

“The girl dreads being away from the mother, but looks forward to visiting the father, everything that is this place, the house, the island, her room with its flowery wallpaper, Ingrid’s cooking (Ingmar has a new wife or girlfriend by now), the moons and the stony beach and the ocean stretching green and gray between the father’s island and the Soviet Union.”

All of this factual background is in ‘Unquiet’, and why they call this memoir a fiction I will never know. We get childhood memories of Linn’s visits to the island. Later as Ingmar Bergman gets old, he and Linn decide to record conversations that she and her father have where she asks him questions about his career and his life, and parts of these conversations are transcribed verbatim in ‘Unquiet’.

She: We were talking about girls, about your tremendous fondness for women.

He: I believe that much of my professional life has revolved around my tremendous fondness for women.

She: In what way have women influenced your…

He interrupts her, leans forward.

He: In every conceivable way, my heart.

Ingmar Bergman and Linn Ullmann

Ullmann is quite discreet in her memories, discreet to the point where this memoir is not entirely fascinating. There is no doubt in my mind that Ingmar Bergman was a genius as a film director, but that does not make his pottering around as an old man particularly interesting.


Grade :    B-


5 responses to this post.

  1. The shifting line between memoir and fiction is a strange beast, IMO. Perhaps it’s a sign of our #FakeNews times?

    Liked by 1 person


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