Review: Bergman Island | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Saturday, November 27th, 2021  

Bergman Island

Studio: Arté France Cinema/RT Features
Director: Mia Hansen-Løve

Nov 01, 2021 Web Exclusive
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You don’t need to be well versed in the works of Ingmar Bergman to enjoy Mia Hansen-Løve’s latest, but it doesn’t hurt.

Set on the Swedish island of Fårö where the seminal filmmaker shot classics like Scenes From a Marriage, auteuristic couple Chris (Vicky Krieps, of Old and Das Boot) and Tony (Tim Roth, of Reservoir Dogs and Rob Roy fame) are working on respective screenplays while visiting. When Chris asks locals about a tourist site dedicated to the late great director, they endearingly shrug and shuffle along, a reaction far removed from the museums, dedications, and even a safari attracting throngs of cinephiles keen to deify Bergman.

Tony is certainly eager to dig into the Bergman lore while there, in between writing his next flick and preparing for a panel discussion attended by enthralled locals who line up afterwards to praise him and his work. But Chris, much to Tony’s chagrin, skips out on both her husband’s talk and the Bergman safari, instead traversing the island with a strapping young local who introduces her to Swedish cider and skinny dipping. And she’s by no means in thrall of inhabiting the house turned AirBnB from Scenes From a Marriage which, as their host helpfully puts it, was the film that “caused millions of people to divorce.”

Chris and Tony’s relationship isn’t quite so acrimonious as those depicted in many of Bergman’s biggest films, though they certainly can be chilly with one another. A Bergman fan’s no-doubt awe for the house’s trove of his movie’s reels and his personal theatre doesn’t phase Chris, who mischievously hops into an upfront seat that the usher warns is to be left empty in dedication to the towering Swedish movie maker. In conversation with Tony and local cinephiles, Chris is even less reverential, rhetorically wondering if Bergman’s life was more fun than his films, and criticizing his patriarchic careerism.

These elements will pique the curiosity of Bergman newcomers and provoke diehards — the latter being arguably more important, given the cinephiles who will no doubt be drawn to its title. And yet, the movie becomes a tribute of sorts to a far different filmmaker in its frankly more engrossing second half. Meta-layers pile up as Chris describes the film she is working on to Tony, its themes and scenes echoing the life and prior films of Bergman Island director Mia Hansen-Løve. It’s a by-turns ethereal and heart-wrenching story about two young former flames attending a wedding, the restrained yet enchanting tone of which makes Tony seem callous at best when he zones out on Chris’ description of it. And when the lines blur between this film-within-the-film, the main narrative, and more, audiences will no doubt leave Bergman Island eager to dig further into not only the eponymous artist’s catalogue but also that of the ascending female director. (www.ifcfilms.com)

Author rating: 7/10

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