In Review

Bergman Island film review: art-house drama set on a Swedish island

Vicky Krieps and Tim Roth star in Mia Hansen-Løve’s ‘ravishing’ and ‘beautifully acted’ movie

It was on the Swedish island of Fårö that the brilliant but “self-absorbed” film director Ingmar Bergman and his younger lover Liv Ullmann lived while making many of his masterpieces, including Scenes from a Marriage. In Mia Hansen-Løve’s Bergman Island, a married film-maker couple – Tony (Tim Roth) and Chris (Vicky Krieps) – visit the island on a working holiday, said Christina Newland in The i Paper. Tony, the more successful of the two, has been invited to take part in a Bergman festival, and is entirely absorbed by the Bergman-related events. He even goes on a Bergman “safari”. Chris, by contrast, “hangs back slightly”; she is struggling with the script she has come here to work on, and poses beady questions at dinners about the differences between male and female artists. Could Bergman have made his films had he had to raise the nine children he fathered?

“Twenty minutes in”, you think you know where we’re heading, said Danny Leigh in the Financial Times: “a couple set to come undone in the shadow of genius”. But that would be too obvious for Hansen-Løve. Even her teasing of the “Bergman nerds” is gentle. The film registers “the reverence surrounding a certain kind of auteur”, but Chris does find inspiration here; and we see her script and story take shape as a film within a film. It is about an aspiring film-maker visiting Fårö. 

All this may sound a bit “smarty-pants”, said Kevin Maher in The Times, and it might have been had the writing not been so “sharp” and curious about the workings of Chris and Tony’s relationship. The film is also ravishing to look at, and beautifully acted. Krieps flips effortlessly between “raw-wound” pain and furious resentment, and Roth, “an actor of uncommon ease”, has rarely been better.

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