Written by Tresca Mallon
Bergman Island is a film for Cinephiles. Filmmakers Chris (Vicky Krieps) and Tony (Tim Roth) travel to the island that was once the home of infamous director Ingmar Bergman, hoping to find inspiration for their next projects. About half-way through we begin to delve into Chris’ new idea inspired by her time on the Island. Suddenly a story within the story unfolds as we are transported into a new film directed by Chris following Amy (Mia Wasikowska) who attends a wedding and is reunited with her childhood sweetheart Joseph (Anders Danielson Lie) after many years. Chris’ life and the lives of her characters begin to somewhat meld as the parallel narratives play out on Bergman Island.
In the beginning it seems as though we are merely in for another indepth exploration into a marriage. A type of film which has a long-standing tradition. The infamous Scenes from a Marriage is even mentioned in the first act. However, the focus quickly moves from the couple as a whole and to Chris by herself who goes on an incredibly scenic journey of exploration around Bergman Island in search of her own inspiration. It seems as though many others prioritise Tony and his art over hers. She reclaims the focus and becomes instantly the most entrancing force. Krieps is effortlessly charming and imbues a sensuality and a sensitivity into every moment on screen.
About half-way through Chris begins to tell Tony the plot for the new film. Suddenly we are transported to a new world. It’s set on Bergman Island at a three day wedding. Our protagonist is now Amy and Joseph is her love interest. Arguably this narrative is the more exciting and a welcome change of pace at this point of the film. Amy has a similar magnetism and mischievousness that Chris does and it soon becomes evident that she is the writer’s mirror image. Wasikowska and Danielson Lie have an electric chemistry and their sex scenes are extremely sensual. Their dysfunctional relationship has all of the passion and lust that is completely absent from Chris and Tony’s relationship which is largely sanitised in comparison. The line between real life and fiction becomes blurred as we spiral towards the final moments of the film.
Bergman Island is about as trans-European as a film can get. Director Mia Hansen-Løve, is from France, Krieps from Luxemburg, Roth from Britain and Danielson Lie from Norway. It’s set in Sweden and the majority of dialogue is in English. This mix is actually quite realistic, especially for a wedding of people in their late-twenties and early-thirties in Europe, and it’s done very smoothly. This mix gives the film an air of authenticity which is bolstered by some of the conversational dialogue.
Hansen-Løve creates a peaceful, quiet and scenic atmosphere that is still somehow bubbling with tension as the maze-like setting gives the characters a backdrop to explore their inner-turmoil. Bergman Island does meta with a pleasing subtlety and executes the narrative-within-a-narrative structure while making both stories compelling.