Bergman Island – movie review

The spirit of the late great Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman permeates this gentle but ambiguous drama from French filmmaker Mia Hansen-Love (The Father of My Children) which blurs the line between fiction and reality.

Filmmaking couple Chris (Vicky Krieps, from Phantom Thread) and Tony (Tim Roth) arrive on Faro Island, located in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Sweden, hoping to find inspiration for their latest projects. They settle into a cottage with a picturesque windmill on the property’s grounds. This is the same cottage where Bergman shot his austere classic Scenes From A Marriage in 1974. Bergman once lived on the island and filmed there. Tony is a fan of Bergman and his films, while Chris is not such an admirer. She is experiencing writer’s block, while Tony forges ahead with his new script. Tony has been a commercially successful filmmaker while Chris has preferred to follow a more independent path. While in Faro Tony also attends a screening of one of his films at a festival run by a group of local cinephiles.

Cracks have begun to appear in their marriage which become more obvious during their stay on the island. Tony heads off on the Bergman safari, a guided tour of some key locations related to the famed auteur, while Chris heads off alone on a bike to explore the island. She meets a local (Hampus Nodenson) who drives her around the island and gives her some personal insights into Berman and his life.

Her journey leads her to create her own story which follows a character named Amy (Mia Wasikowka), a filmmaker who has come to Faro to attend a friend’s wedding. There she runs into Joseph (Norwegian actor Anders Danielsen Lie, recently seen in The Worst Person in the World), a former lover. There is still something of a spark between the two but their efforts to rekindle their past relationship stall. In many ways, this fictional film seems to echo concerns from Hansen-Love’s own film Goodbye First Love.

Hansen-Love employs the familiar film-within-a-film narrative structure here, and there interlocking themes and ideas between the fictional Amy created by Chris and her relationship with Joseph, and her own relationship with the distracted Tony. Bergman Island is a thematically rich drama as it examines romance, the complex nature of relationships and marriages, the creative process, connections through time. Many of these themes have shaped some of Hansen-Love’s earlier films. She has drawn on her own personal experiences to shape both the narrative and the characters, but it does become a little too self-indulgent. Robin Williamson’s score underscore the almost playful nature of much of the film.

The film also explores Bergman’s legacy, as it seems that Faro has maintained the house in which Bergman lived – it has a library dedicated to the dour filmmaker and an extensive film archive of his works. The film has been beautifully shot on location by cinematographer Denis Lenoir, who captures the austere nature of the island while giving us a strong sense of place. He suffuses the material with images that will resonate strongly with cinephiles familiar with Bergman’s work.

Greg King

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