“This is your landscape, Bergman. It corresponds to your innermost fantasies of forms, proportions, colors, horizons, sounds, silence, lights and reflections.” That is Ingmar Bergman, in his memoir “The Magic Lantern”, the Faroe Islands in the Baltic Sea, alluding to his “secret love”. Beginning with “Through a Glass Darkly” in 1960, he shot many of his films on Pharo and died in 2007.
In “Bergman Island”, Mia Hansen-Love’s slippery and flashy new film, Pharaoh, a harsh and forbidden presence in most of Bergman’s works, serves as a pilgrimage destination for cinematographers and a charming seaside destination for less obsessive travellers. appears in. Visitors can browse through the gift shop and library, watch movies in Bergman’s personal screening room, or hop on the bus for a guided “Bergman Safari” (an actual annual event). They can also swim, drink, play ludo and shop for parchment.
Chris (Vicky Cripps) and Tony (Tim Roth) do some of the work, but they come to Pharos to do most of the work. At various stages of completion the scripted filmmakers establish themselves in the hut where some of the “scenes from the wedding” were filmed. The caretaker who shows them happily ever after, describes it as “the movie that led to millions of people getting divorced.” (I wonder if the recent HBO remake would have the same effect.)
An unmarried couple with a young daughter (she’s living with a grandmother while her parents are in Sweden), Chris and Toni have probably unintentionally gotten into trouble in their relationship. They are affectionate and easygoing with each other, but the combination of Chris’ restlessness and Tony’s complacency suggests that things aren’t quite right between them.
In Bergman’s films, love is a volatile element, as often as not a catalyst for emotional pain and psychological disintegration. A man and a woman in a film is unlikely to find much peace with his name. But Hansen-Love, though she is interested in the gloomy Swede and his heritage, is hardly in her adventures, and Chris and Tony do not live in the state of spiritual extremes that often plague the Bergman characters.
Chris is a passionate film lover who nonetheless doubts the power of the medium, and “Bergman Island” explores his ambition in a playful, critical sense. He is upset by the fact that Bergman, a father of nine children with six women, pursued his art at the expense of his family obligations. No woman can get away with it, she says, a complaint that is mixed with the usual nods, jokes, and condescension from Tony and his dinner companions.
She acknowledges the difference between art and life, but still wishes for a measure of “coherence” between them. Such a possibility becomes more than just a theoretical question in the second half of “Bergman Island,” when the unmonitored movie Chris still struggling to write takes to the screen.
The movie-in-the-movie, also set on the pharaoh, involves a young woman – also a filmmaker – named Amy (Mia Wasikowska), who travels to the island for a friend’s wedding. and meets Joseph (Anders Danielson Lai). the great love of his life. The two of them met in their teens and after so many years, even though they are committed to other people, find that they can’t leave each other.
Their passionate, guilty romance — and Amy’s blondness — tilts the story closer to Bergman territory than the passive-aggressive manners of Chris and Tony, but the more explicit cinematic context is closer to home. Chris’ film is actually a sequel to Hansen-Love’s “Goodbye First Love,” which followed teenage lovers into young adulthood.
The connection between the film Chris dreams up and the one he is in seems both elusive and clear, as do the possible autobiographical implications of “Bergman Island”. Could it be purely a coincidence that Amy Mia has a near-opposite name, a name shared by Wasikowska and Hansen-Love? Is Tony a stand-in for French filmmaker Olivier Assayas, with whom Hansen-Love has a child? Are we approaching the Bergmann doubling and fallacy identity scenario from a different angle?
But there are also interesting hints that the story of Chris and Tony may be a kind of film-within-a-film in its own right, one that grew out of Tony’s imagination. When Chris is asked about his project, he replies that it is about the unspoken meanings that permeate through a couple’s daily lives, a detail that almost appears in the first part of “Bergman Island”. Fits very neatly. He also explains during a Q&A. Sessions after the screening of one of his films, which he identifies with his female characters. Does this make Chris his alter ego?
To his credit, Hansen-Love doesn’t turn “Bergman Island” into a self-aware philosophical puzzle. It unfolds against a picturesque backdrop with an easy, fresh-air naturalism that doesn’t necessarily suit one’s innermost fantasies. The mood, underpinned by Robin Williamson’s flamboyant music, is predominantly comical, and the cast — Tony and Chris, at least — seem more playful than anguish, even in difficult moments.
It may be because they both understand the paradox that ‘Bergman Island’ applies so brilliantly. It’s a movie that isn’t entirely sure whether she wants to be the one, or who she wants to be. Which makes it feel like more than just a movie.
Rated R. cries and whispers. Running time: 1 hour 52 minutes. in Theaters.