Bergman Island: Despite the name, this is no masterpiece

Study of tensions among film-makers is a misfire

Bergman Island
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Director: Mia Hansen-Løve
Cert: 15A
Starring: Vicky Krieps, Tim Roth, Grace Delrue, Mia Wasikowska, Anders Danielsen Lie, Hampus Nordenson.
Running Time: 1 hr 54 mins

Earlier this week, Mia Hansen-Løve’s One Fine Morning was named best European film at Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight. A quiet character study pivoting around mum sex and elder care, it’s not the director’s best work but it’s streets ahead of this recent misfire.

Bergman Island takes place on Fårö, the Swedish island where Ingmar Bergman lived and shot such classics as Through a Glass Darkly, Persona and Hour of the Wolf.

Thus, Chris and Tony Sanders, married film directors played respectively by Vicky Krieps and Tim Roth, travel to Fårö to complete an artist’s residency. The set-up and the use of the bed from Scenes of a Marriage promises a Bergmanesque relationship implosion that never comes. Instead, we get mere hints that there is tension generated by his greater success as a filmmaker. Even these potentially corrosive aspects fizzle.

Mostly, we get sunny views of the island as Chris strolls around with Swedish film student Hampus (writer Hampus Nordenson playing a version of himself) while Tony opts for the tourist bus tour.

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Nothing much else happens in the film, which never really justifies its setting, save as a postcard-pretty destination. Whither the rending of garments? Did anyone actually see a Bergman film?

Bergman’s films are named, watched and referenced, yet are not meaningfully engaged with. Tony describes one of his films as “about how invisible things circulate within a couple”, part of a dull pattern of superficial intertextuality that sees Joachim Trier regular Anders Danielsen Lie play both a character named Joseph and himself.

There is more possible commentary provided by Chris’s film-within-the-film, a shaggy dog drama about a young woman, Amy (Wasikowska), who travels to Fårö to hook up with former lover Joseph (see above) at a friend’s wedding. Chris complains that she doesn’t know how to end her script: truth be told, the beginning and the middle aren’t great either.

Despite solid performances and Denis Lenoir’s bright cinematography, this is disappointing from the director of Eden and Goodbye First Love.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic