Cannes: Hansen-Løve’s Self-Reflective Smash stars Vicky Krieps as the stunted filmmaker and Mia Wasikowska as the heroine of her new screenplay.
Young Parisian filmmaker whose delicately personal work (“Eden”, “Things to Come”, “Goodbye, First Love”, et al.) Illuminates the unbearable lightness of being with the soft touch of an end-of-year breeze. summer, Mia Hansen-Løve may not be the first author of the 21st century that comes to mind when you consider the prodigious legacy of Ingmar Bergman, a man whose movies stared into the void in hoping to see his own reflection, and cried the silence of God with a rage so howling that even his comedies probably still resonate in eternity. From a distance, the idea of Hansen-Løve filming a Bergman tribute sounds like the equivalent of, say, Kacey Musgraves recording a cover album dedicated to Swedish doom metal band Candlemass.
And yet “Bergman Island” – a three-level meta-romance about a filmmaker who flies to Sweden with her partner and presents him with a script about her first love – is such a rare and remarkable film for the same reason as you wouldn’t expect it to exist in the first place. Set on the secluded Baltic Sea rock that Bergman adopted as his home and began terraforming with his artistic character after making “Through a Glass Darkly” there in 1961, Hansen-Løve’s calm story of loss, of love and artistic recovery creates such an extreme contrast to the Scorched Earth films that have become synonymous with Fårö that even its nocturnal scenes reveal the shadows that fiction has the power to cast on reality.
In other words, Hansen-Løve’s film is not at all an homage to Bergman – at least not a film that worships at his altar with the kind of orthodox piety needed for Paul Schrader to refract “Winter Light” into. “First Reformed”. While the iconic Swedish artist is fun to be seen in “Bergman Island” (his films are checked in almost every scene, many of which take place in the exact places they were filmed or in the house where he wrote them) , this puzzle-box flexibility is more interested in him as a means to an end.
Hansen-Løve is fascinated by the intangible but utterly transformative effect that Bergman’s cinema has had on the tranquil ocean rock (around 500 inhabitants) where so much has been made. Through the disconnect between the physical fact of Fårö’s existence and the imaginary fog that has settled over it in her mind, she discovers a perfect connection to the personal and creative universes that have long overlapped in her semi-autobiographical – or maybe After only semi-autobiographical – fiction.
If the Hansen-Løve films are a loose archipelago of tributes and sweet memories, then “Bergman Island” sits right in the center of its Bermuda Triangle. Shot in the aspect ratio its namesake has never used, the film begins as such an airy and lyrical euro-drama that it’s hard to fathom the upcoming meta-player. And yet, as soon as married filmmakers Chris (Vicky Krieps) and Tony (Tim Roth) arrive in Fårö, there is telling uncertainty as to what they’re supposed to do there.
Tony, the more high-profile of the two, was invited to screen his latest feature film and enjoy all the movie-going fun the island has to offer (don’t miss The Bergman Safari!), And Chris accompanied on the hope for a change of scenery. could inspire progress on his latest screenplay. But the vibe on the island is too detached and surreal for this getaway to feel like a work trip, and when was the last chance they had to spend time together away from the girl they share in New York ? On the other hand, there is just something about sleeping in the same bedroom where Bergman filmed “Scenes from a Wedding” that forces Chris and Tony to sneak into separate corners of the island and disappear. in their private mind pockets. But this leads to her own problems, as Chris struggles to shake Fårö’s oppressive calm and feels Bergman’s ghost judging her with God’s disappointment every time she opens her laptop (“As I write here, how can I not feel like a loser?).
At this point, no one who knows Hansen-Løve or the personal nature of her previous films will be able to help but assume that Chris is her avatar and that Tony is replacing her famous ex Olivier Assayas, with whom she also shares a young child. It is perhaps safe to say that Hansen-Løve agrees with this. In fact, she seems eager to get rid of any pretext.
On the one hand, Krieps’ raw but flinty performance often gives the impression that it is based on its director. On the other hand, “Bergman Island” traces so insistently the space between life and fiction that almost every line is quickly peppered with a self-reflective sparkle. “I like a certain consistency,” Chris says of the relationship between an artist and his art. She jokes that she hopes Bergman had more fun in her life than he did with his films, which she loves – to her own confusion – even though they hurt her so much to watch. (In a typical dry humor scene from the film, Tony asks to show a comedy in Bergman’s private screening room, but finds himself stuck with a copy of “Cries and Whispers”). Other moments resonate with a more explainable injury. Rolling his eyes to the fact that Bergman had nine children he rarely bothered to raise, Chris asks if it is possible to create a “great job and raise a family at the same time”. It’s not a big leap to imagine that Hansen-Løve asked himself the same question, although Assayas never did.
It may sound like a malicious dig into a movie where every detail ends up reverberating from fiction to reality and back again, but there isn’t an ounce of cruelty in Hansen-Løve’s films, and it stays. true here. If Chris and Tony’s relationship is clearly on the ropes, we can only feel it by the stale crackle in the air between them. “Bergman’s Island” is too well known and lived to make its characters suffer through a great fight, or to make them give in to one of the temptations that appear casually during these languid days of endless sun; the idea of their marriage has started to erode, and there is no way to reconstruct it. The only real bond that remains between them (other than their child) is the artists’ mutual camaraderie, and “Bergman Island” slips into another plane of existence when Chris begins to guide Tony through his latest script.
Change is not easy for the characters in Hansen-Løve, whose sense of identity is so ingrained in their work that they often seem to risk drowning in their dreams. What separates Chris from the rest – and what invites “Bergman Island” to add a lively new dimension to Hansen-Løve’s work, building on his previous films without satisfying Chris’ fear of repeating himself – is that her vocation as an artist is the very thing that frees her. Inspired by Bergman’s example, Chris strives to build a Fårö of her own imagination. A Fårö that could allow him to look darkly at his terminally ill marriage through a glass and find the resolution to graciously free himself from Tony before it’s too late.
And so, as Chris begins to recount the movie in a movie to his unconscious partner, we are drawn into “The White Dress,” a Linklater-tinted romantic drama about a New York filmmaker named Amy (Mia Wasikowska) leaving her behind. child at home and goes to Fårö alone for a friend’s wedding. This is the last chance she will ever have to reconnect with the boy she based her first popular film on (an excellent Anders Danielsen Lie as Joseph), and Amy intends to make the most of it. best party. Bergman is for her a refuge, and perhaps also an invitation to act on her most festering regrets.
“The White Dress” is expertly inserted into Plot A of “Bergman Island” and brings the film to life with a sense of fun and forbidden possibility (both of which is reinforced by the fact that Chris tells this obviously personal story to her. current partner, and may not know where he is going). Wasikowska is exceptional as a photocopy of a photocopy of Hansen-Løve, strained with all the volatility missing from Chris and none of his implosive calm.
If Chris is Fårö, Amy is the island Bergman left behind. She dances on Abba and dives into the ocean and wonders aloud what could have happened if she had ended up with the one who had run away. The Sundance-y movie she made from her relationship with Joseph would have been the best place for Amy to answer this question on her own (but if she missed the mark on that, it isn’t. maybe not too late for Chris to learn from his mistake). The same is true for Hansen-Løve. What ties these three women together – aside from one occupation and the island where they overlapped – is that they all need an end. Or maybe an escape. Whatever they are looking for is something they can only give to themselves.
The Journey to the Shore is both elegantly simple and full of surprises, as the romantic plot intensifies even as the film’s parallel plots begin to unravel into more complex forms. Reality and invention blur in subtle yet deeply moving ways, as Hansen-Løve uses Chris to replace his memories of what really happened, and Chris uses Amy to do the same. Denis Lenoir’s delicately crisp cinematography helps demarcate the various layers (which are never narratively confusing), though it’s hard not to get a bit drunk on the night blues that places Amy’s Fårö in a kind of dark dream world.
This sense of twilight possibility permeates the rest of the story as the truth weaves around the fantasy; anyone who hopes for a clearer or more concrete explanation of how Amy’s fate reflects on Chris’ future risks being disappointed with a final act that refuses to insult the mess of life by whitewashing her through. the easily digestible tropes of auto-fiction (even if that means relieving the emotional punch of it all and sending audiences home with more of a love stroke than a punch).
“Bergman Island” is a breathtakingly poignant stunner all the same – a beat within a work that has always been seasick with the bittersweet dizziness that comes from looking at the past through the lens. smeared with memory and imagination. As unresolved as the final shots may seem, they leave us with a crystal clear understanding of how reality colors fiction and (perhaps more importantly) how fiction can be used to reciprocate. We hope Chris finds the strength to stand on his own feet, but we have no doubt that Hansen-Løve has already done so. While Fårö may always be synonymous with another great filmmaker, “Bergman Island” belongs to him.
“Bergman Island” was presented in competition at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. IFC will release the film in the United States.