Thanks to director-screenwriter Mia Hansen-Love’s Bergman Island, I have learned that there is a sort of Disney-style Scandinavian theme park set on an idyllic isle known as Faro that is dedicated to the Swedish master of cinema Ingmar Bergman, who died in 2007 at the age of 89. It was where he made his home and often shot his films there. No, there isn’t an attraction dedicated to Death and a medieval knight playing chess together inspired by 1957’s The Seventh Seal. But you can buy the type of sunglasses worn by Bibi Andersson in 1966 in Persona. There is even a guided tour available on a so-called Bergman Safari bus.
But the main focus of this meditative comedy-drama is Tony (Tim Roth) and Chris (Vicky Krieps), a couple who are both director-writers and parents of a young girl. Both are hoping find inspiration by soaking up the genius vibes of a master of cinema known for exploring the often dour circumstances of the human condition. They even rent the cottage and sleep in the double bed used for Bergman’s 1973 divorce drama Scenes From a Marriage.
Tony, who is older and more established than his partner, is invited to give a master class in Bergman’s own screening room, has no problem churning out a script pronto. Chris, who is curious about what his draft looks like, takes a sneak peek at what seems to be a Saw-like sadomasochistic horror story judging by the accompanying doodles. Meanwhile, Tony bares his chauvinistic side and wan support for his partner’s lack of inspiration when he declares, “No one is expecting Persona.”
At a certain point, the rather free-spirited Chris, who often bears a winsome smile as if she was laughing at a secret joke, decides to split from Tony and find her own way in exploring Bergman’s retreat and its natural beauty. Krieps, whose breakout role was as Daniel Day-Lewis’s fashion muse in 2017’s Phantom Thread, has a natural incandescence that lights up the screen. She stumbles upon a rather awkwardly nerdy but admiring film student (Hampus Nordenson), who is closer to her age and is more than glad to show her the Bergman-related sites that regular tourists don’t see.
Eventually, her character comes up with a script idea based on her own life titled The White Dress. She recites her story to a semi-interested Tony as we watch the always wondrous Mia Wasikowska play a budding filmmaker called Amy in a movie within a movie. It’s a heart-breaking tale about meeting up with a former lover (Anders Danielson Lie) at the wedding of a shared friend. Alas, their carnal reunion does not end well although we do get to hear the ABBA hit The Winner Takes It All at the wedding’s after-party sung by the bride. It is a fitting soundtrack for such a bittersweet tale of regrets and lost opportunities.