‘Bergman Island’ is a Lovely Tale of the Divide Between Life and Art


Mia Wasikowska in a screenshot from the trailer for”Bergman Island” (Courtesy of IFC Films)

By Megan Fisher, Arts Writer


If you have only seen the recent HBO remake of “Scenes from a Marriage”and not Ingmar Bergman’s original, you are missing out on very interesting closing credits. An anonymous voice intones, “And while you look at this footage of Fårö, here are the closing credits,” over shots of the Island where Bergman lived and filmed a great many of his works. In his movies shot on Fårö — such as “Persona,” “Through a Glass Darkly” and “Hour of the Wolf,” the craggy landscape of the Baltic Sea Island comes off as bleak and forbidding, reflecting the torment of his characters.

Relationships and Creativity

In Mia Hansen-Løve’s new movie, “Bergman Island,” a filmmaking couple, Chris (Vicky Krieps) and Tony (Tim Roth), travel to Fårö. Tony is presenting a movie at a film festival, but, mostly, the couple is looking for artistic inspiration and hope that some of Bergman’s genius will rub off on them.

They are rather shocked to find that Fårö is an enchanting, beautiful countryside, far different than what was captured in the movies they have seen. The camera captures Fårö with such beauty that it makes one immediately begin planning a vacation in their mind.

Tony and Chris spend their days exploring the area on bicycles, swimming in the sea and trying to write. Krieps and Roth have an easy chemistry that conveys the short-hand that develops during a long-lasting relationship. Though one gets the sense that turbulence is building underneath the still waters.

“Bergman Island” truly comes alive during the second half when a film-within-the-film is introduced. Chris is stuck on her screenplay and begins to explain the plot to Tony in hopes that he can help her. As Chris narrates, the audience is spirited into her movie, “The White Dress.”

Amy (Mia Wasikowska) is a young filmmaker traveling to Fårö for a friend’s wedding. During the trip, Amy is reunited with Joseph, played by a charming Anders Danielsen Lie, a teenage first love that turned into a twentysomething disaster that turned into a yearning passion. This section jolts “Bergman Island” to life with youthful energy and aching emotion. It is swooningly romantic.

While “Bergman Island” is full of references to Bergman’s life and movies, Hanson-Løve’s approach is far more airy and lyrical. The simple loveliness of the frequent scenes where the characters have heady discussions during long walks is tinged by Eric Rohmer.  

A Jumping-Off Point

Hanson-Løve uses Ingmar Bergman and his work as a jumping-off point to examine creativity and the divide between life and art. The discussions of Bergman’s private life raise the question of how you reconcile the fact that beautiful art can be made by ugly people. Where does creative inspiration come from? How could Bergman have created such bleak and foreboding stories in a place as beautiful as the Island of Fårö? How much is the relationship between Amy and Joseph in the movie-within-the-movie inspired by Chris and Tony’s?

Mia Hansen-Løve is too intelligent to provide easy, pat answers to those questions. She offers some thoughts and ideas and then provides the audience with the space to come to their own conclusions.


[email protected]