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Recalling My Time as Ingmar Bergman and Jeanne Moreau’s Go-Between

As the world celebrates the centenary of Ingmar Bergman’s birth, Danish journalist and Variety contributor Jorn Rossing Jensen remembers snagging a rare interview with the Swedish director in 1976

This year marks the centenary of the birth of legendary Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, which was celebrated at this year’s 30th Göteborg Intl. Film Festival.

In 1976 Bergman had organized a press conference in Oslo, where he and Liv Ullmann would talk about their upcoming film, ”Autumn Sonata.”

On the day of the talk my good friend, Danish director Peter Refn, was set to open a French film festival at his Grand Theatre at Copenhagen. ”Perfect,” I thought: ”Brunch in Copenhagen, press conference in Oslo, then back to the party in Copenhagen.”

At the Grand, Refn introduced me to French actress Jeanne Moreau, who was there with her first film as a director, ”Lumière.” When I apologized for not being able to stay for the screening – and I told her the reason – she asked me: ”Can I come with you?”

“Pardon?”

“Can I go with you to see Bergman?”

“Of course I can’t decide what you are doing, but I am sure Refn will kill me if I abduct his star director.”

“O.K. then, can you take him a letter?”

Moreau wrote the letter, and when I got to Stockholm, I left a message for Bergman saying I had a letter from Jeanne Moreau.

After the press conference at the Royal Hotel, with several hundred journalists, Bergman rose. “I understand one of you has a letter to me from Jeanne Moreau.”

I went up and gave it to him, told him how I got it, and asked him for an interview later – he usually gave few.

“You sort this out,” he said to his secretary, asking me, ”Will you see Jeanne Moreau again?” When I told him I was going back to the festival in Copenhagen, he asked me to take her a letter. Now it was Bergman’s turn to write, and later that day I gave it to her over a a glass of red at the Grand Café.

Three weeks later Bergman’s Swedish production company, Cinematograph, called, saying I could interview him at Stockholm’s Royal Dramaten Theatre, where he was head of drama. He was waiting for me at the entrance and we went to his office where he took of his shoes, put his feet on the table, and we talked for two hours.

A couple years later, Bergman donated 46 boxes of memorabilia to the Swedish Film Institute in Stockholm. A friend of mine, Aina Bellis, was sorting them out, and she showed me the script of ”Fanny and Alexander.” On each page he had drawn red devils, and on some shopping lists.

“It is true that whenever Bergman and Moreau are in the same city, they meet,” she told me, “I don’t know why.”

I wondered what their relationship was, but it took me several years to find out from a Canadian film critic and Bergman expert, whom I met at the Cannes Festival.

After Moreau had ended a passionate love affair with French director Louis Malle, she felt she was the unhappiest woman in the world. ”Who will understand me? Ingmar Bergman,” she thought, having seen his film ”The Summer with Monika,” which was to her a revelation of cinema.

She wrote him a letter, then another, and finally after the third, he responded. They met for the first time in Berlin, which started a lifelong friendship. Unfortunately, as she once told Nice Martin in Cannes, ”I always wanted to make a film with Ingmar Bergman, but it never happened.”

Bergman died in 2007, aged 89; Moreau in 2016, also at 89.

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