Linn Ullman is a Norwegian writer. She is the daughter of Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman. Further to reading literature in the United States, she became a literary critic for a major Norwegian newspaper before going on to write her first book, Before You Sleep, in 1999. Her most recent novel, published in 2010, A Blessed Child, received unprecedented critical acclaim. Linn Ullmann attended the Festival de Cannes back in 1997 to receive the Palme des Palmes on behalf of her father, Ingmar Bergman. She returned to Cannes this year as a member of the Feature Films Jury.
What is your earliest film-related memory?
My earliest memory is probably of being on a film set with my father. He was shooting The Magic Flute. I remember because it’s an opera. I was on the set and, that day, the entire cast was there. I sat and watched everything. Suddenly my father said, “Silence. Going. Camera. Action!” and the entire cast started singing. It was totally magic.
You grew up in a family of cinema. Did you ever consider becoming a director or actress yourself?
No, never. Very early on, I knew that my career would focus on books. I studied literature. Then I became a literary critic and started to write books. My interests, my family, and my feelings all revolved around film, but I never wanted to work in the film industry.
And what about scriptwriting?
No. There is interest in turning two of my books into films, Grace and A Blessed Child, which is exciting! But I’ve never been interested in doing it myself. Adaptation for the screen is a form of translation and I don’t translate my books myself either.
Is there a film that you watch all the time ?
I have a few. There’s a film that I watch every summer, The Circus by Charlie Chaplin, because my father loved it. I can watch The Godfather over and over. I’m a big fan of Woody Allen, movies like Zelig, Hannah and her sisters, Annie Hall and, of course, Manhattan. I also like Husbands and Wives. I think it’s wonderful. I can watch all of these films again and again. I watch them all the time. And what about films made by your father? I’ve seen many of them many times over. My favourite film of his is probably Wild Strawberries.
Which film would you put on for a man if you were trying to seduce him?
Amarcord. Fellini’s Amarcord. If you show a really great film, and the person doesn’t appreciate how great it is, you know that you don’t want to seduce him in the first place.
Do you often go to the cinema?
Yes, I do. I feel safe in a movie theatre… The darkness comes on, and you know that you’re just going to be taken somewhere.
Do you know the other members of the Jury?
Not personally, but of course I know of their professional work. I was very proud and very excited when I read the names of the other members of the Jury: such accomplished, intelligent people. Some of them are great artists; some experts in the art of filmmaking. It’s a great privilege to sit on a panel with them.
Which jury member would you most like to be for a few hours?
Maybe Olivier. He’s smart. He’s a wonderful director. He speaks French. He always has something intelligent to say. And he’s funny too!
Which book would you like to see adapted for the big screen?
There’s a wonderful novel called The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon. I think it would make a great film.
Which memory do you associate with the Cannes Film Festival?
I was here 14 years ago to accept an honorary award for my father (the Palme des Palmes in 1997). I remember he had written this really long speech and he wanted me to read it. It started with, “When I was a little boy, I used to sit behind ladies wearing big hats, trying to see the screen.” It was a beautiful piece of writing. But I had to call my father and tell him, “we’ve got to cut this down, daddy. It’s going to appear on TV!” So we cut it down, and we talked and talked for ages. My memory from that time in Cannes is this conversation I had with my father.
Interview recorded by B. de M.