Home Video Hovel: Bergman Island, by Rudie Obias
Mia Hansen-Løve’s Bergman Island is one of the best films from 2021 that you most likely missed, thanks to the pandemic. However, it’s now available from the Criterion Collection (on Blu-ray and DVD) and it’s well worth the pick up—especially if you’re a fan of multi-textual stories with dynamic, yet flawed, characters, and a good dose of cinema history.
Fun fact: There are two films from the Criterion Collection titled Bergman Island—a narrative from 2021 directed by Mia Hansen-Løve and a documentary from 2006 directed by Marie Nyreröd.
Bergman Island follows Chris and Tony Sanders, a filmmaking couple, played exceptionally well by Vicky Krieps and Tim Roth, respectively. The pair travel to Fårö—Ingmar Bergman’s island where he lived and worked—in the Baltic Sea. They were invited to the island to screen one of Tony’s films, but both want to spend time working on their latest films.
While Tony, who is in love with Bergman’s work, spends most of his time writing and being the centerpiece of Fårö’s local film society, Chris, who is not of fan of Bergman himself (she questions if Ingmar Bergman could write and direct nearly 50 movies and TV plays, and more than 170 stageplays in his lifetime, if he were a woman with nine children from six men instead. Yes, he really had nine children with six different women), spends her time exploring the island itself, as she tries to find inspiration for her new film.
During one of their walks, Chris describes the outline of her story, while the film, itself, transitions to her screenplay—which follows Amy, played by Mia Wasikowska, an American filmmaker in her late twenties, who travels to Fårö for a friend’s wedding. She then starts a short love affair with one of the other wedding guests, Joseph, played by Anders Danielsen Lie. Think of it as a film within a film.
The two aspects of Bergman Island examine the various stages of love and romance, as it swings from exciting, passionate, and carefree in the younger couple to dependable, deep, and measured with the older couple. Hansen-Løve expertly balances between the loneliness of your twenties with the complacency of middle age, while both find solace on the island.
It examines that relationships and work evolve with time. The film even states that we say the same thing over and over again throughout the years, just from different perspectives, a wink and a nod to Mia Hansen-Løve’s own filmography. This is something she hints to during an interview with the Criterion Collection about recreating parts of her life in her work, while blurring the lines between memories and cinema.
Meanwhile, the release also features a short film by Gabe Klinger titled Bergman’s Ghost. Klinger played the “American Man” in Bergman’s Island. He created a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film, while injecting a sense that Ingmar Bergman’s ghost haunts every bit of Fårö itself. In fact, in Bergman’s private screening room, all are invited to take a seat, except one that remains empty at all times because it’s the Swedish director’s favorite. It creates a sense that there’s no escape from Ingmar Bergman while on Fårö, while his presence is always felt there.