Bergman Island Review

To work with Mia Hansen-Løve on Bergman Island must be a fascinating experience. To take Tim Roth and Mia Wasikowska on a trip down memory lane, of memories they never had nor have the opportunity to create, is a strange opportunity to expunge the demons that Ingmar Bergman never knew he had. His filmography is rich with contempt for mankind and himself, but Bergman Island takes the venom out, not to protect its audience, but to help them understand and analyse the world around them. It is that fine line between gushing with thanks for the Swedish director and critiquing his work to the point of the piece becoming an arthouse critical essay. Hansen-Løve blurs that well and creates an exciting bit of drama that gets as meta as it does exciting.

Although Bergman Island is far more than a suck-up and love letter to Bergman, it is hard to ignore the influence he has over the characters. It does not infect the direction as much as would be expected, but his craft is knowable from the tones taken, the roads followed and the pathos underlining the trip these characters take. It is not a modern twist on the tactile methods of an old legend, but a journey through a landscape of influence. Bergman Island will do much for those that find influence in the work of Bergman. Roth plays out a strong role as a man obsessed with the work of Bergman. Audiences are never inflicted with such terrors, though.

They can feel the influence he has, see the wonders sparking in Roth’s head as he consolidates his own desires with those of Bergman. It is refreshing to see this take on the influential world of creativity, but there is little within Bergman Island that can truly class itself as inspired or entertaining. It is a film for those self-obsessed few. The ones that will rattle through the Bergman back catalogue and relate it to themself, and themself alone. Resourceful it may be of this drama between Roth’s character Tony and Vicky Krieps’ Chris, much of the tension between the two prides itself on holidays from hell. Temptation is around every corner for both characters, but it is a different calibre for each of them. Both are given the chance to walk in the footsteps of the acclaimed director who drew them to the island, but neither is as wistful or worried as Bergman was.

Roth enjoys his dramatic resurgence as a contemporary hand to have in a heavy-hitting feature and plays well with an on-form Wasikowska. They all share the memories of Bergman together, and as contentious the references to Through a Glass Darkly and comparisons to Wild Strawberries and Persona are, they are never at a level that Woody Allen would include. Obvious observations and shoddy incorporations was the remit of Rifkin’s Festival, but Bergman Island sidesteps the obvious altercations to be had with a world-class director and focuses itself on the characters within. Bergman may have a firm hand on the tiller, but it is a Roth and Wasikowska and Krieps guided piece, and audiences are better for it.

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