Bergman Island, 2021.
Directed by Mia Hansen-Love.
Starring Vicky Krieps, Tim Roth, Grace Delrue, Mia Wasikowska, Anders Danielsen Lie, Hampus Nordensen and Clara Strauch.
Chris (Vicky Krieps) and Tony (Tim Roth) are writers looking for an idyllic setting in which to write. Tony is an avid Ingmar Bergman fan and convinces Chris to spend some time on the island of Faro. A place rich with Bergman lore, where he supposedly wrote and shot some of his best work.
Bergman Island is a film which washes over you. Narrative, structure and dialogue are a free flowing sensory experience that seeps through the pores. Although this feature film from writer director Mia Hansen-Love purports to be about Ingmar Bergman, much of what goes on has little to do with him. There are coach trips to famed locations throughout Faro, whilst conversations often turn to his influence on island trade, but ultimately Bergman Island explores the creative process not the creator.
By observing Chris (Vicky Krieps) and Tony (Tim Roth) from a distance, either walking, exploring or talking about their respective endeavours, pacing can seem quite pedestrian. There is a unique sense of time passing on Faro, which bleeds through into the mannerisms of local inhabitants. This only lends the film further charm, as comedy comes from laid back encounters and miscommunications.
What lifts Bergman Island out of its laissez-faire approach to narrative and structure is a merging of the real and imagined. As Tony steams ahead with his book, drawing suggestive sexual pictograms in moments of procrastination or titillating inspiration, Chris hits a brick wall. Their conversations in which they pull her story apart, morphs into an altogether more dynamic alternative to that happening on this Faro.
Amy (Mia Wasikowska) and Joseph (Anders Danielsen Lie) are the culmination of those discussions around imagination. Chris has conjured them out of nowhere, planted them down in an alternate version of Faro and breathed life into them through discourse. As a left field segue it works surprisingly well, injecting some much needed momentum at precisely the right moment. So much so, that this film within a film brings the cinematic conversation back round to Ingmar Bergman, who sometimes blurred the distinction between reality and fantasy in his own work.
Metaphorical and allegorical elements continue to intertwine, while Amy and Joseph’s story is broken up by the conversation of their creator. It addresses the issue which underpins everything about Bergman Island, in terms of how creators create and what makes artists paint, whether that is with pen and ink or something more intangible. As the real and imagined start crossing over between cinematic plains, Mia Hansen-Love keeps audiences on side by never trying to destabilise the tone she has created.
Fighting, fornicating and discussions about creative form are offered up with the same laid back approach. Both Vicky Krieps and Tim Roth imbue their characters with a naturalism, that feels almost too easy when captured on camera. If anything, the trick with their performances is to do nothing. It is a genuine pleasure to watch them bring Chris and Tony to life, while Mia Wasikowska almost steals the film from under them.
Amy is a joyous creation unfettered by worldly concerns. That audiences are aware she is a fabrication of someone’s imagination, just as that person is equally unreal, severs any emotional attachment they might have. It becomes a voyeuristic experience that relies on ambience rather than outcome, leaving any sense of resolution open ended. An ambiguity in keeping with the great man himself.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★