Bergman Island

France-Germany-Belgium-Sweden-Mexico-Brazil-UK 2020, 112 mins
Director: Mia Hansen-Løve

Vicky Krieps and Tim Roth are ‘Chris’ and ‘Tony’, a couple on a summer retreat to Fårö, the Swedish island home of Ingmar Berman. Both are filmmakers hoping to make progress on their respective scripts; Tony is also giving talks on his own films. He works with ease, while Chris’ process is more reflexive, personal. She’s initially stymied by writing in Bergman’s home and sleeping in the room where Scenes from a Marriage was shot invites her to reflect on her own relationship. But a new screenplay idea soon emerges and Hansen-Løve opens up a second parallel story – Chris’ fictional one; Mia Wasikowska plays a young American filmmaker who attends a wedding on Fårö, looking to reconnect with her first love (Anders Danielsen Lie). The result is a clever Russian-doll narrative, sumptuously realised by Hansen-Løve and her stellar cast.
Tricia Tuttle, Director BFI Festivals

Mia Hansen-Løve’s life has always fuelled her art. Her films tell the stories of her uncle (All Is Forgiven, 2007), her friend (The Father of My Children, 2009), her brother (Eden, 2014), her mother and father (the short Après mûre réflexion, 2003; Things to Come, 2016). Until now, her most obviously autobiographical film was Goodbye First Love (2011), in which a heartbroken young woman finds solace with an older mentor, her architecture teacher, but cannot move on from her first love. Bergman Island is a sort of sequel to that film; only now, Hansen-Løve has not one but two avatars, and the borders between life and art are more porous yet.

Set on the island of Fårö, where Ingmar Bergman famously lived and worked, Hansen-Løve’s first English-language film opens on filmmakers Chris (Vicky Krieps) and Tony (Tim Roth), who are visiting the island for a residency during which they will each work on their respective screenplays. Tony – like Olivier Assayas, Hansen-Løve’s former partner and the father of her daughter – is the older and more celebrated of the pair; he is participating in a series of masterclasses, at which fans tell him his work changed their lives. Chris is less well-established and less confident in her craft (the only person on the island to have seen her work tells her that he and his date were the only people in the cinema, and after the film they broke up). They have a little girl, June (perhaps named for the child in Bergman’s 1953 film Summer with Monika), who they have left at home with her grandmother.

Tony and Chris are courteous to one another, offering up cups of tea, fond teasing and friendly advice. But something is not quite right. There is talk of ghosts, and of unspoken things that circulate between a couple. Holed up in the house where Bergman filmed Scenes from a Marriage (1973), Tony doodles pornographic sketches in his notebook and plots a film in which characters’ identities collapse into one another. Chris meanwhile is upset by a perceived disjunction between the greatness of Bergman’s art and the cruelty of his personal life. She roams the island restlessly, the rustle of wind in trees and thrum of waves on shore echoing her agitation (here, as elsewhere, Hansen-Løve combines naturalistic sound with judicious use of pop music – in this case the Go-Betweens’ ‘You Won’t Find It Again’ and Abba’s terrifically on-the-nose ‘The Winner Takes It All’).

Of course, it is tempting to read all this as a film à clef. But then Hansen-Løve adds a further layer of confusion by having Chris sketch out an autofiction of her own. As she recounts the story of her screenplay, entitled The White Dress, to Tony, it springs to life before our eyes. Now we see an actress called Mia (Wasikowska) playing a filmmaker called Amy, who is married with a young daughter but who cannot move on from her first love. That boyfriend character, called Sullivan in Goodbye First Love, is now named Joseph and is played by Anders Danielsen Lie (in a part that’s the inverse of his role in The Worst Person in the World). He teases Amy about the film she’s made, very obviously based on their love affair. A further reversal towards the film’s end flips our sense of reality once more, as Chris and Amy seem to collapse into one, but Wasikowska and Danielsen Lie are now playing themselves.

The doubles pile up. A young film student, Hampus (Hampus Nordenson), straddles the ‘real’ and ‘fictional’ worlds. Rangy and long-legged, with a similar chin-length bob to Chris and Amy (and Hansen-Løve), he looks like their male twin. Later, Chris gazes pensively at a portrait of Bergman’s last wife, the diarist Ingrid von Rosen, another woman whose identity was overshadowed by her husband’s. Where do these figures come from? Tony is writing a film about a couple falling apart on Fårö; has his work somehow bled into Chris’s? His response to her screenplay suggests that it is a kind of confession. In his notebook he scribbles a question – ‘Who are you: you or me?’

Another of his notes reads: ‘Like most great artists, Bergman is both singular and multiple.’ So, too, it seems, is Hansen-Løve. Now in her 40s, and with a second child by her new partner, director Laurent Perreau, the filmmaker is no longer an ingénue. A meditation on female creativity and the constraints upon it, on romantic and maternal and sexual love, on artistic identity, told with narrative complexity and a confident, understated style, Bergman Island suggests an artist who has at last come into her own.
Catherine Wheatley, Sight and Sound, June 2022

Directed by: Mia Hansen-Løve
©: CG Cinema, Neue Bioskop Film, Scope Pictures, Platform Produktion, Arte France Cinéma
Production Company: CG Cinema
in co-production with: Neue Bioskop Film, Scope Pictures, Platform Produktion, Piano, Arte France Cinéma
in association with: RT Features, Dauphin Films, Talipot Studio, SCOPE Invest, Kinology
with the participation of: ARTE France, Eurimages, Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung, Wallimage (La Wallonie), Gotlands Film Fond, Film Capital Stockholm, The Swedish Film Institute, Sveriges Television AB, Les Films du Losange, Kinology
Presented by: CG Cinema
Executive Producers: Sophie Mas, Lourenço Sant’Anna, Carmem Maia, Gustavo Rosa de Moura
Produced by: Charles Gillibert, Rodrigo Teixeira
Production Accountant: Nancy Brasseur
Post-production Supervisors SLM: Abraham Goldblat, Nicolas Bassetto, Thomas Fournet-Oberle
Post-production Supervisor Imediate: Anne Sophie Henry-Cavillon
1st Assistant Director: Marie Doller
Script Supervisor: Clémentine Schaeffer
Casting Directors: Antoinette Boulat, Pauline Hansson
Written by: Mia Hansen-Løve
Director of Photography: Denis Lenoir
Stills Photography: Anne Neugebauer
Visual Effects: Benuts
Film Editor: Marion Monnier
Production Designer: Mikael Varhelyi
Art Directors: Eva Lendorph, Beatrice Strand
Set Decorators: Isabel Sjöstrand, Lisanne Fransen, Robin Dervaux
Property Masters: Isabel Sjöstrand, Lisanne Fransen, Robin Dervaux
Costume Designers: Judith De Luze, Julia Tegström
Make-up Artists: Juan Pacifico, Dorothea Wiedermann, Anne Moralis
Sound Mixer: Paul Heymans
Sound: Paul Heymans
Re-recording Mixer: Thomas Gauder
Sound Editor: Paul Heymans

Vicky Krieps (Chris)
Tim Roth (Tony)
Mia Wasikowska (Amy)
Anders Danielsen Lie (Joseph/Anders)
Hampus Nordenson (Hampus)
Ellen Lundkvist (Bergman Safari guide)
Kerstin Brunnberg (Hedda)
Anki Larsson (Åse)
Stig Björkman (Stig)
Melinda Kinnaman (Berit)
Joel Spira (Jonas, groom)
Clara Strauch (Nicolette, bride)

France-Germany-Belgium-Sweden-Mexico-Brazil-UK 2020©
112 mins

A MUBI release

Get Carter
Continues from Fri 27 May
From Fri 3 Jun
From Fri 3 Jun
All My Friends Hate Me
From Fri 10 Jun
Bergman Island
From Fri 10 Jun
Swan Song
From Fri 10 Jun
Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin)
From Fri 24 Jun (Q&A with Wim Wenders on Sat 25 Jun 15:00)

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Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
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