Art imitates life and life imitates art in Mia Hansen-Løve’s leisurely, introspective drama Bergman Island. The film follows partners/fellow screenwriters Chris (Vicky Krieps) and Tony (Tim Roth) as they retreat to Fårö, the remote island that celebrated Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman called home. Eager for both inspiration and connection, the pair — especially Chris — instead find themselves restless and sometimes at odds. As their story unspools, so does that of the screenplay for which Chris is determined to find an ending.
Both Chris and Tony are working on new scripts, but Tony’s is moving ahead more easily than Chris’; plagued by writer’s block, she instead wanders the windswept terrain, exploring the landscapes and locations that surrounded Bergman as he worked on the films that would make him an icon. Eventually, she turns to Tony for advice, telling him the beginning and middle of the story she has spun around former lovers reuniting at a wedding taking place on this very island.
The film-within-the-film introduces us to Amy (Mia Wasikowska) and Joseph (Anders Danielsen Lie), who share a powerful connection but suffer from bad timing. As they come together and pull apart, it becomes evident that, in many ways, their story parallels that of Chris and Tony, who share a child and a life but have a complicated relationship. And just as Chris can’t quite figure out where she and Tony are headed, she also isn’t sure where to take Amy and Joseph. The two tales intertwine as Chris and Tony’s time on Fårö plays out.
Hansen-Løve, who both wrote and directed, elicits convincing, lived-in portrayals from her cast; Chris, Tony, Amy, and Joseph feel like real people facing real challenges. And, like the filmmaker who inspired the movie’s title, Hansen-Løve examines essential human themes of loneliness, connection, and desire. The result is a film about filmmaking that, of course, is really about so much more. — Betsy Bozdech
Team #MOTW’s comments:
Loren King A relationship drama, razor sharp character study and a poignant portrait of the overlapping of life and art and the blurring fiction and autobiography, “Bergman Island” is a sumptuous addition to writer/director Mia Hansen-Løve’s already impressive body of work. The setting is Faro Island where Swedish director Ingmar Bergman lived, worked and shot many of his famous films. But Hansen-Løve isn’t trying for homage or even for her own “Bergmanesque” movie. Her work is far too original for that. Instead, she’s created a story about life and art with tender insight, humor and without a whiff of pretension. Read full review.
Susan Wloszczyna: The main focus of director-screenwriter Mia Hansen-Love’s 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 Ingmar Bergman’s 1973 divorce drama Scenes From a Marriage. Read full review.
Pam Grady: Married filmmakers Chris (Vicky Krieps) and husband Tony (Tim Roth) seek inspiration for their separate projects on Fårö, the Swedish island that served as Ingmar Bergman’s home base, each seeking to commune with the spirit of the master. The getaway inspires Chris as she imagines her next work, even if she can’t quite see the ending, but the break from everyday life also exposes fissures in her marriage. Writer/director Mia Hansen-Løve knows her subject well: Like Chris, she was in a long-term relationship with an older, more established filmmaker, Olivier Assayas, but while she delicately peels away the layers of the relationship, there are bigger questions about art and life at play. As the couple together and separately inhabit and tour the places that were once Bergman’s own, his shadow lingers over them, a giant still. Chris observes that he had nine children yet managed to direct 70 film and television productions, would a woman with that many kids be able to accomplish as much? A terrific meditation on art, life, and relationships, made even richer by the film-within-the-film starring Mia Wasikowska that brings Chris’ artistic vision to life.
Marilyn Ferdinand It takes a lot of moxie for a director to use Fårö, the island home of legendary Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, as the setting for a movie about two film director/screenwriters communing with their respective muses. Then again, Mia Hansen-Løve is no ordinary film director. The talented artist behind such affecting films as Goodbye First Love and Eden, Hansen-Løve is also the life partner of renowned French director Olivier Assayas. Thus, it is possible to look at Bergman Island as semiautobiographical. It certainly is a celebration of cinephilia, as the main characters, Tony (Tim Roth) and Chris (Vicky Krieps), try to work on their respective screenplays amid the cottage industry that has sprung up on the island to capitalize on the Bergman mystique. But the drama centers mainly on Chris and her problems coming up with an ending for her star-crossed love story. Things get confusing when her movie takes over from the story of Tony and Chris—but then, both stories are products of Hansen-Løve’s imagination. Much like the films of Abbas Kiarostami or the dance films of Carlos Saura, Hansen-Løve enjoys revealing the artifice behind the movies. What she ends up accomplishing, however, is partially rescuing Fårö from its status as a famous movie set by vividly capturing its authentic beauty.
Leslie Combemale Ingmar Bergman both adored and fetishized women, certainly showing more respect for them on film than in real life, but he did create some of the best characters for women in the history of film. It’s a delight to see a female filmmaker consider his impact through the eyes of a contemporary couple, their lives and their art. The movie within a movie plays as a way for lead character Chris (Vicky Kreips) to communicate with Tony (Tim Roth), one longterm partner to another, through her work. If you know Bergman’s life and films, you’ll see that Mia Hansen-Løve weaves aspects of both into Bergman Island, but somehow finds a way to process it through the female gaze.
Jennifer Merin Filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve’s lovely and poignant relationship drama, Bergman Island, is about a couple (played by Vicki Kreips and Tim Roth), both of whom are screenwriters, who retreat to the island where cinema icon Ingmar Bergman lived and wrote. Their intention is to settle into a rather isolated rental property where they will be able to work undisturbed on their individual works-in-progress. The isolation, ever present specter of the Bergman legacy and the woman’s very relatable insecurities stress the relationship, and transform the ambience of their island retreat from peace and quiet into one of heightened but understated drama. The woman’s writer’s block is central to her character arc, and is used as a storytelling film within a film device — the treatment for her screenplay, a parallel plot in essence, which is filmed with Mia Wasikowska in the lead role — that underscores the relationship tensions. Under Hansen-Løve’s sensitive direction, Krieps, Roth and Wasikowska give nuanced and very engaging performances. And, as an added attraction and real treat, the scenario tours viewers to places related to Ingmar Bergman’s films and legacy.
Sandie Angulo Chen: You don’t need to be overly familiar with legendary Swedish director Ingmar Bergman’s filmography to appreciate Mia Hansen-Løve’s thoughtfully created meta drama Bergman Island. Those who’ve seen several of Bergman’s films or are acquainted with his biography will be even more rewarded with the director’s film within a film about a May-December filmmaking couple spending an extended holiday on Fårö Island, where the late prolific director lived and made movies in the second half of his life. For once this isn’t just Hollywood pairing a 60-something actor (Tim Roth) with a 30-something actor (Vicky Krieps) without reason; for more than a decade, Hansen-Løve was fellow and much older director Olivier Assayas’ partner. That’s a lot to unpack, before even mentioning the film-within-a-film in which Mia Wasikowska plays Amy, a filmmaker who travels to Fårö for a wedding and rekindles a passionate love affair with Joseph (Anders Danielsen Lie). The potentially semi-autobiographical nature of the movie, in which fiction and reality blur, is part of what makes it so clever. A memorable tribute to Bergman, filmmaking, and storytelling.
Nell Minow: We sometimes speak of a movie’s setting as being like a character in the film. In Bergman Island the setting is the lead character, a place, a mood, a history, a force, a presence, showing us that we – real and fictional characters, actors who play them, humans who imagine and watch them, are all connected by the places that hold us, our memories, our hopes, and our imagination.
Title: Bergman Island
Director: Mia Hansen-Løve
Release Date: October 15, 2021
Running Time: 112 minutes
Language: English, French and Swedish with English subtitles
Screenwriter: Mia Hansen-Løve
Distribution Company: IFC Films
AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Betsy Bozdech, Leslie Combemale, Marilyn Ferdinand, Pam Grady, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sherin Nicole, Liz Whittemore, Susan Wloszczyna
Edited by Jennifer Merin