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Creativity, Loss, and Passion Collide in “Bergman Island” (Review)

In her English-language debut, French director Mia Hansen-Løve utilizes the inspiration of Ingmar Bergman to tell two stories in one.

Both take place on the Baltic island of Faro, not far off the northern coast of Sweden. Bergman first went there in 1960 while scouting locations for “Through a Glass Darkly.” He ended up shooting multiple feature films and two documentaries there and ended up building a house where he lived with Liv Ullmann.

Chris (Vicky Krieps) and Tony (Tim Roth) are two American filmmakers who head to Faro on a creative pilgrimage. They are not married, but have a young daughter at home, so they’ve escaped to work on their separate screenplays and be inspired by the land that Bergman loved dearly.

They stay in the home where “Scenes From A Marriage” was filmed and Chris expresses her discomfort at staying in the bedroom from “the movie that caused millions of people to divorce.”

For Tony, immersing himself in Bergman’s world is a dream come true. Chris finds herself struggling more with where she wants her writing to go and how to end her script, which also takes place on the island.

Hansen-Løve, who previously impressed with the films “Goodbye, First Love” and “Things to Come,” has a delicate touch in her own storytelling. Scenes are sometimes more suggestions of thought than scenarios that are fully played out. There is a sense of mystery to these characters as it seems as though they aren’t being fully honest with one another.

This becomes more evident as we shift gears entirely and visit the movie-within-the-movie of Chris explaining her screenplay to Tony and asking for his feedback on how to complete her story.

Her movie is about a young female director named Amy (Mia Wasikowska) who has traveled to Faro for the wedding of a close friend. There, she finds herself with Joseph (Anders Danielsen Lie). They had been teenage lovers and drifted apart, but seeing each other again as adults as reignited their passion and they sneak around the guest cabins to make love again, despite Joseph’s guilt of cheating on his girlfriend.

We float in and out of this story a bit as Chris relays it and both relationships intersect. The spirit of Bergman permeates the film, but the focus remains the creative process and, maybe more than a little bit, the impact that a successful career can have on a relationship.

Infused with a hopeful melancholy, Hansen-Løve has delivered a cinematic vacation worth taking.

Bergman Island” opens in select theaters today. It will be available as a VOD rental from all digital providers on October 22.

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