Bergman Island

How to live up to Ingmar Bergman’s expectations without trying so hard.

“Bergman Island” is a bigger fan of Ingmar Bergman than “My Salinger Year” was of J.D. Salnger,” which I was criticized by a Facebook user for not seeing it in the aspect it was intended to be seen. And like “The Souvenir Part 2,” which opens in a few weeks (and you can expect a review from me in due course), the movie has an affection for scripts and its writers.

It shows us a story within a story and the process of writing that story, as well as some nostalgia to the great filmmaker’s repertoire. Written and directed by Mia Hansen-Love, there’s a certain kind of spirit and humanity to the characters and the melancholy worlds they live in.

We meet the filmmaking couple Tony (Tim Roth) and Chris (Vicky Krieps), who both arrive on the island that inspired Ingmar Bergman in the house that inspired “Scenes From a Marriage,” among other Bergman classics. They’re here to work on their scripts and for some Q&As of their latest entry.

Chris thinks movies are “sad, tough, and violent, but in the end they do you good,” and yet she still watches them. In fact, she has second thoughts about her next script about whether or not it would be recycled. That and something may be holding her back and making her anxious. Tony suggests she should write something else then.

That’s when she introduces us to her character Amy (Mia Wasikowska), who comes to a remote island for the wedding of an old friend. Her dream guy is Joseph (Anders Danielsen Lie), whom she constantly dreams ever since they went their separate ways, and they reunite at the wedding. Of course, it can’t be the happily ever after story most people prefer. In fact, Chris wants this to be the last chapter in a series of failures and dramas.

Could it have the potential to become a movie? It all depends on how Chris can fathom it.

Certain scenes drag a bit, but I was still reminded about the documentary
“Liv & Ingmar,” which told the true story about the relationship between Bergman and actress Liv Ullmann. I know it’s a completely different story, but both these films are love letters to what the filmmaker has accomplished in his life, while “Bergman Island” is about the people inspired by his work, and how they distinguish between movies and realities.

Krieps, in her best role since “Phantom Thread,” delves quite well into her character, who seems stuck, and needs to find that Bergman spark to wake her up again. And Wasikowska delivers yet another fine performance as the main heroine of her story. These two actresses are able to reflect the same personalities of their characters, and they both don’t settle for the most obvious approaches. And even Roth and Lie both have their charms as their men with how they present their dialogue and tastes.

“Bergman Island” is directed quite well by Hansen-Love, who allows the story within the story to merge with its reality. That is if it was reality to begin with. Or are they really the same stories? That’s a good question, and you have to see to find out. And while you’re at it, you have to be marveled by the two leading ladies.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4.

In Select Theaters This Friday



Categories: Drama

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