Review: Bergman Island, directed by Mia Hansen-Løve

Tim Roth and Vicky Krieps in Bergman Island

Bergman Island is a story within a story set in the home of famous Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. A couple of writer/directors spend a summer in his home while creating new projects and soaking up the Bergman vibe. It’s streaming on Hulu.

Bergman Island is actually Fårö Island in the Baltic Sea, a place where Bergman lived for many years. It’s now a tourist attraction with tours, a museum in his former office, and rentals of his home.

There are many people others consider brilliant geniuses in the world of cinema who I do not appreciate even a little bit. Ingmar Bergman is one of those people.

Mia Hansen-Løve, who wrote and directed this film, is apparently in the group who do appreciate Bergman’s genius. The film is as much about him and his many films as it is about Chris (Vicky Krieps) and Tony (Tim Roth).

Chris and Tony arrive on the island and are shown around Bergman’s house. They will sleep in the bedroom where Scenes from a Marriage was filmed. They find work spaces – Tony in the house and Chris in a nearby windmill with a desk by a high window.

Tony is older and well-known. He is in demand on the island as a speaker. Chris is still struggling to be recognized. While Tony begins writing immediately, Chris is slower to get going and unsure about her story.

They explore the places where Bergman worked. Tony schedules them to go on a school bus with a big tour group to see important locations. Chris sneaks away from the group tour and meets Hampus (Hampus Nordenson). Hampus is a young local who offers Chris a personalized tour and she jumps in his car just like that. They see film locations, swim in the sea, and drink cider from the same bottle.

Eventually, Chris is almost finished with her story. She asks Tony to help her with it. He tells her she must finish it in her own way, but he listens to her as she tells him the story. Chris’ story becomes a movie within a movie. As she tells the story we see Mia Wasikowska and Anders Danielsen Lie act it out.

Anders Danielsen Lie and Mia Wasikowska in Bergman Island

The two are Amy and Joseph, former lovers who are now with other people. They are on the island for three days to attend a wedding. They quickly take up their romance and spend nights together. Joseph wants to go back to his girlfriend. Amy wants to love both Joseph and the man she’s currently with.

Chris worries about how to end this unhappy love story. She falls asleep in Bergman’s office. When she wakes up she’s directing the final scene of her film in which Amy and Joseph were the stars.

Mia Hansen-Løve created a story within a story within a story in this mix of fantasy and reality. I found it a bit jarring at times. I also found it beautiful. The location is stunning and it was used beautifully in telling the multi-story.

Chris and Tony have a child, who stayed with Chris’ mother while they were on the island. There was considerable talk about how motherhood limited Chris’ options as a filmmaker vs. someone like Bergman who had nine children he never took care of at all – one of them didn’t even know Bergman was their father. This double standard in child care has held many creative women back and is rich thematic material.

Overall I found the film interesting and somewhat puzzling, but not great. If you idolize Bergman your results may be very different.

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