Bergman Island review: ‘A meditation that muses on many matters’

It's one to savour long after leaving the cinema (Picture: MUBI films!)

It’s one to savour long after leaving the cinema (Picture: MUBI films!)

Married filmmakers Tony (Tim Roth) and his younger wife Chris (Vicky Krieps) embark on a summer writing retreat on Faro, the Swedish island home of late legendary director Ingmar Bergman (The Seventh Seal).

Staying in Bergman’s house, the couple sleep in the actual bed he featured in Scenes From A Marriage, a film that, as Chris exclaims, caused ‘millions of people to get divorced.’

Where Tony finds the setting inspirational, Chris finds it oppressive and unsettling. Anxiety of influence abounds as Chris frets about creating her own masterpiece.

Although a fan of Bergman’s work, she starts to question his personal life (he fathered nine children via six different women), wondering whether it’s possible for an artistic genius to be a good romantic partner and a parent – the couple have left their only daughter behind in the care of Chris’s mother.

Clearly Bergman nuts will get the most out of this elegantly acted piece, but even if you’ve never seen a single Bergman movie there are still layers on layers of meaning to be rewardingly unpeeled.

For starters, there’s the story’s semi-autobiographical basis in director Mia Hansen-Løve’s own previous romance with fellow film-maker Olivier Assayas.

Then, in the mid-section, we enter a within the film (also set on Faro) that Chris begins writing, starring Mia Wasikowska as a younger version of herself.

A meditation that muses on many matters, emotional and intellectual, Bergman Island possesses a lovely light touch, thanks not just to its deft direction, but its two luminous female leads.

Resonant and rewarding, it’s an entrancing film for grown-ups.

A modern-day Scenes From A Marriage that will prove one to savour.

Bergman Island is out on Friday in cinemas.


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