There seems to have been something of a resurgence in interest of celebrated and influential filmmaker Ingmar Bergman in recent years. With the BFI re-releasing his filmography across a multi-volume Blu-ray set (Volume 3 is coming up in August) along with their debut 4K release in The Seventh Seal last year, it truly feels like a great time to be alive for fans of the auteur. Now, Mia Hansen-Løve offers her own tribute to the cinema pioneer in Bergman Island, an enchanting, meta romantic drama that feels as much a love letter to filmmaking itself as it does to Bergman.
The film follows two American filmmakers (Tim Roth and Vicky Krieps) as they embark on a creative retreat to Faro, the Swedish island where Bergman lived and made some of his finest films. Hoping to light a fresh spark in their work, the couple’s journey for inspiration and romantic tension forms the backbone of the film’s first half. The second half is where the meta comes in, as Krieps’ Chris begins to explain the narrative idea she’s processing and it comes to life before us. The film-within-a-film approach has certainly been done before, but here it feels far more than a gimmick and an important part of understanding the film’s characters and message – the line between life and art, and indeed how art changes across generations and the relationship creatives have with it and those who have come before them. Maybe? Maybe it’s about something else entirely. Simply, it’s about life. It’s about people. And it’s about art.
To not write an essay on the film is to possibly do it a disservice – this is an incredibly layered and complex tale packed with so much insight into life and the creative process that deserves being picked apart and studied. I don’t think for one minute that I even took in half of what it was trying to say, as this kind of thing usually flies miles over my head. But even for those with an intelligence level similar to mine, there is still a lot to love here. On the surface, the film is very accessible – Bergman Island is a beautiful film filled with sumptuous cinematography and incredible performances, the magically melancholic drama feels almost dreamlike. Hell, there were moments I was so enraptured and immersed that I felt I could almost touch and smell the island of Faro.
Bergman Island is a film that deserves to be studied and celebrated alongside the Swedish legend’s finest works. Ideally by someone far more intelligent than me.
BERGMAN ISLAND WILL BE RELEASED IN CINEMAS IN THE UK AND IRELAND ON 3 JUNE 2022 AND EXCLUSIVELY ON MUBI ON 22 JULY 2022