For more than 40 years, Swedish director Ingmar Bergman lived and worked on Faro Island, making “Persona,” “Shame,” The Passion of Anna” and more of his films on the tiny, sparsely populated Baltic island.
In “Bergman Island,” a pair of filmmakers travel to Faro, stay in one of the houses where he made his movies, sleeping in the bed from “Scenes from a Marriage,” the movie that, the house’s caretaker says, “made millions of people divorce.”
Veteran writer/director Tony (Tim Roth) is on Faro to speak at a screening of one of his movies during the island’s annual Bergman Week festival. His younger, less experienced wife Chris (Vicky Krieps) is there to try to start writing her next film.
Together, they’re clearly aiming to restart their relationship, leaving their daughter at home to spend some time together in Bergman’s world.
This being a symbol-laden Bergman nod, that plan isn’t working. They can’t watch a comedy in Bergman’s theatre, they get “Cries and Whispers.” She gets bored during his talk, wanders off and spends the day with a film student exploring Bergman sites while he’s on the official tour that goes to different places.
But, just when “Bergman Island” starts to look like a typical couple-splitting-up drama, writer-director Mia Hansen-Love takes a hard, meta turn.
As Chris spells out the movie she’s thinking of making on Faro to Tony while walking around the island, the film in her head comes alive with Mia Wasikowska playing Amy, a free-spirit there to attend a wedding and, hopefully, hook up with long lost love Joseph (Anders Danielsen Lie).
To say Chris’s proposed movie is autobiographical undersells Hansen-Love’s story and Chris’s film -- for its an examination of a different kind of relationship that allows her to look at love, life and work from a different angle.
And, knowing that Hansen-Love was the partner of French filmmaker Oliver Assayas gives the picture another sort of autobiographical spin.
“Bergman Island” is surprisingly absorbing, darkly funny in places, well acted by the four principals, and visually captivating as it explores the “perfect” little island that, for good reason, looks familiar.
It helps to know something of Bergman and his films to be fully drawn into the first half of the movie. But once it makes its turn, “Bergman Island” comes fully into its own as a thoughtful, provocative drama that steps away from Bergman-like bleakness into a more ambiguous, realistically resonant place.
Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @KentWolgamott