Monday, September 13, 2021

TIFF: Bergman Island (2021)


Filmmaking couple Chris (Vicky Krieps) and Tony (Tim Roth) head to Fårö Island, Sweden to take up residency while Chris works on her latest screenplay. Fårö (i.e. Bergman Island) is where Swedish director Ingmar Bergman lived and worked. The house the couple are staying at was used in the making of Scenes from a Marriage (1973). They talk to locals about Bergman, watch Cries and Whispers (1972) on 35 mm and explore the island to find different spots important to Bergman and his work. The hope is that being in this space will inspire Chris to write her screenplay. The movie shifts then to a movie within a movie where Chris is dictating her script to Tony. In that story, Amy (Mia Wasikowska) and her former lover Joseph (Anders Danielsen Lie) reunite on Fårö Island to attend a mutual friends wedding where they rekindle their secret affair.

Directed by Mia Hansen-Løve, Bergman Island is steeped in appreciation for Ingmar Bergman. It is also a tad pretentious. While the film-within-a-film format works quite well, the stories get muddled. There is also a plot point in the screenplay that is never revealed leaving the audience hanging. And it's unclear what truly motivates these characters. Chris and Tony are both supposed to be Bergman fans but don't really demonstrate much knowledge about the filmmaker. However, that actually works in their favor because their curiosity helps deliver a lot of information to the viewer about Fårö and Bergman. Krieps and Roth are terrific in the story and the film boasts plenty of shots of Fårö Island including a peek inside Bergman's home, shots of various filming locations and a visit to Bergman's grave. The quiet, bucolic nature of Fårö really comes through.

A must for Ingmar Bergman fans or anyone who enjoys stories about the creative process. If you don't fit into either category, you may want to skip this one.

Bergman Island is part of the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival Gala Presentation slate. It also screened at the Cannes Film Festival. It's distributed by IFC Films.

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