A cerebral and languid relationship drama that will resonate especially with cinephiles, Bergman Island is a dreamlike meta-excursion into the creative process. Tim Roth plays Tony, an established film director married to Chris (played by Vicky Krieps) – a younger director and writer, less confident in her own voice. They have travelled to Faro, the Swedish island that was home to the legendary director Ingmar Bergman – he of weighty dramas like The Seventh Seal, Persona, The Virgin Spring and, as referenced, Scenes From A Marriage. They want to explore the island and his legacy, and create whilst there.
Subtle cracks are present in their relationship. Chris spends time in the company of a younger man playing board games; Tony goes off on Bergman Safari tourist trips with adoring fans of his own work. They have a child, but are both self-involved. Then, Bergman Island takes a meta-swerve as Krieps tells Roth about her idea for a new film. This plays out for us, following Anders Danielsen Lie and another film director, Mia Wasikowska, as former lovers reunited for a three-day wedding celebration. Both are in relationships but are drawn back together. Eventually, both worlds collide in even more meta form, but in a low-key rather than flashy way – rather like the rest of the film.
This is a slow, ruminative drama about the nature of creativity, the nuances of relationships and gender bias. Bergman had many wives and children, but churned out a mass of work for screen and stage – would a woman be granted those opportunities? Would she even want them? Splashes of autobiography pepper the narrative: director Hansen-Love was in a relationship with older, more established filmmaker Olivier Assayas for years, and inferences of the art-mirroring-life type can easily be drawn.
Bergman himself looms large over the proceedings: his irascibility and genius, as well as his bleak view of relationships. Hansen-Love’s film, though, is more meditative. Wasikowska is excellent; Roth and Krieps bounce off each other believably; the degree of emotional suppression is both admirable and frustrating as the story drifts along. Beautifully shot using the vistas of Faro, Bergman Island is a film that has no easy resolution; a meta-snapshot of a couple that veers on indulgence but leaves plenty to ruminate upon.
Dir: Mia Hansen-Love (15, 113 mins)
Out Fri 3 June
words KEIRON SELF
APPLICATIONS for spring term 22 are now Closed: If you’re 18-30, live in Wales, and want to get ahead in the creative and cultural industries, express your interest for autumn term.