A couple retreat to the island that inspired Ingmar Bergman to write screenplays for their upcoming films when the lines between reality and fiction start to blur.
‘Bergman Island’, as the title may suggest, is a movie set on the island of Fårö in Sweden where the legendary Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman lived, died and made many of his movies. It is a meta romantic drama about a filmmaking couple who go on a retreat to the island to explore their love of Bergman’s works whilst looking for inspiration to create their own art. Tony (Tim Roth) is a big Bergman fan and his work inspires his own, whereas Chris (Vicky Krieps) is also a big fan although she has issues with Bergman’s behaviour in his personal life. The film explores their relationship in this setting and how that has fed into their work, in a place with a rich cinematic history.
Part of the conflict in their relationship comes through Tony already having a moderate degree of success (he is previewing his new film on the island), whereas Chris is struggling to write her screenplay. He is subtly dismissive of her and seems content for her to be in his shadow, although otherwise their relationship seems fairly solid and open, albeit partially because they don’t discuss their feelings with one another – did I mention this was a meta film? The setting on Fårö leans heavily on the quirkiness of ‘Bergman Week’ (a real event) where this small, quiet and otherwise non-touristy island is taken over by film fanatics and events such as the ‘Bergman Safari’ take place (a tourist bus that takes guests around shooting locations from Bergman’s movies).
About half way through, ‘Bergman Island’ switches tack somewhat as we see the visualisation of Chris narrating the screenplay she is writing to Tony, which seems heavily based on their own relationship, albeit with a bit of wish fulfilment thrown in. That takes us into this story with Mia Wasikowska and Anders Danielsen Lie (who was great in ‘The Worst Person in the World’) playing two former lovers who reconnect at a wedding on the island, bringing their messy and complicated feelings to the fore. I actually found myself more invested in the ‘film within a film’ and was disappointed when we left that to return to the A-plot, even moreso when Hansen-Løve takes the film down a path that didn’t quite work for me. To a large extent ‘Bergman Island’ thinks it is a bit smarter than it is and it bites off more than it can chew with the final act where the various aspects of the story start to collapse in on themselves. I have no doubt I’m perhaps missing some hidden meaning here but I didn’t like how it ended.
‘Bergman Island’ is an enjoyable exploration of the relationship between romance and creativity, using cues from the Swedish filmmakers extensive back catalogue to blend into the characters experiences within this movie. It stretches for something more impactful with its concluding act than what it manages to achieve, but the performances are good, the setting lovely and this is worth seeing particularly if you are a fan of Ingmar Bergman’s work.
Directed By: Mia Hansen-Løve
Starring: Vicky Krieps, Tim Roth, Mia Wasikowska, Anders Danielsen Lie and Hampus Nordenson