Review: Bergman Island

Written and directed by Mia Hansen-Løve, two American filmmakers retreat to Fårö island for the summer and hope to find inspiration where Bergman shot his most celebrated films. As the days pass by, the lines between fantasy and reality begin to blur. Starring: Vicky Krieps, Tim Roth, Mia Wasikowska, Anders Danielsen Lie and Hampus Nordenson.

Mia Hansen-Løve unveils the layers of this story gradually, so much so that the first switch from its main characters to the film within the film, leaves you questioning whether it works, until you realise that the answer is yes, emphatically it does. It’s a brilliant piece of writing which lovingly melds fact and fiction within their picturesque, romantic world. It also has a terrific sense of humour, it flows very naturally, it’s sarcastic and is emphasised by the excellent editing work by Marion Monnier.

Setting the film on Fårö island is the cherry on top, a celebration of the joy which film brings to so many and is of course, an extra bonus for fans of Bergman’s work. There’s a quality to the way that the story moves which is so casually confident, the characters all have their vulnerabilities but it’s effortlessly smooth, easy to watch and genuinely captivating. It’s a romance where the focus isn’t on being romantic or the success of a couple but on individual happiness.

While Fårö island is certainly a location for film lovers, it’s also undeniably stunning, it’s a perfect setting. It’s beautiful, it brings a brightness and natural colour to the film which is enchanting to watch. Hansen-Løve then brings that ineffable creative spirit to her direction, giving the film a sincerely charming personality. The atmosphere is entirely at ease, reflecting Fårö as a place of inspiration and artistry. It’s absorbing to to watch from start to finish.

A significant portion of its charm comes from the superb Vicky Krieps, she’s the heart of this film. Her performance brings to life an intelligent, quick-witted, free-spirited woman who doesn’t hide her flaws and self-doubt. It’s one of the reasons you may momentarily question the switch in story, as you simply don’t want to move away from her. It’s a pleasant surprise that Krieps and Tim Roth make a sincerely sweet couple, his character remains mostly on one level but even so, he ticks all the boxes and they play off each other very well.

Mia Wasikowska is intensely reliable, so it’s no shock she gives a great performance, her character is extremely emotional and she pulls that off effortlessly. She makes a well-matched couple with Anders Danielsen Lie, the two have a steamy chemistry and portray their complicated history with few words needed. Hampus Nordenson is an entirely unexpected but wonderful presence, he has a quirky energy which is almost infectious.

Bergman Island is a beautifully shot, charming and elegantly layered film. Vicky Krieps is yet again flawlessly entertaining and the whole cast feel entirely in their element. Mia Hansen-Løve has achieved something fantastic, in that this film feels entirely new, refreshing and vibrant. It celebrates film as a whole, even if the focus is on the titular icon, it’s both relaxing and engrossing to watch. It would be beyond easy to watch them wander Fårö island for many more hours, but the time we do get with them is a sheer delight.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ ½

Reviewed as part of London Film Festival 2021

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