Review: ‘Bergman Island’ (2021), starring Tim Roth, Vicky Krieps, Mia Wasikowska and Anders Danielsen Lie

October 20, 2021

by Carla Hay

Vicky Krieps and Tim Roth in “Bergman Island” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

“Bergman Island”

Directed by Mia Hansen-Løve

Some language in Swedish with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Sweden (primarily on the island of Fårö), the dramatic film “Bergman Island” features an all-white cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A British film director and his German screenwriter wife have different experiences while on a getaway trip to Fårö (famous for being filmmaker Ingmar Bergman’s home), where she struggles to finish a screenplay, whose plot is depicted in the movie.

Culture Audience: “Bergman Island” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of Ingmar Bergman and to people who are interested in talkative arthouse movies that have a story within a story.

Mia Wasikowska and Anders Danielsen Lie in “Bergman Island” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

People watching “Bergman Island” will have a better chance of enjoying the movie if they know in advance that it’s more of a low-key “slice of life” character portrait (with a generous serving of Ingmar Bergman history) than a series of dramatic shakeups. Usually, whenever there’s a drama about a married couple going on a getaway trip together, the plot is about some kind of crisis or reckoning that happens in their marriage. That’s not the case with “Bergman Island,” which has a story-within-a-story that’s introduced in the last third of the film.

Written and directed by Mia Hansen-Løve, “Bergman Island” has a meandering quality to it that’s reflective of the leisurely pace that one might have when on a tourist getaway trip. Married couple Tony (played by Tim Roth) and Chris (played by Vicky Krieps) are on this type of trip, which they approach in two very different ways. Tony is a well-known British film director in his late 50s. He’s about 25 years older than Chris, a lesser-known screenwriter who is originally from Germany, but she currently lives in the United States with Tony and their daughter June (played by Grace Delrue), who is about 5 or 6 years old.

Tony is a highly respected “auteur” who’s famous-enough to be recognized in public by film aficionados, but he’s not so famous that paparazzi are following him wherever he goes. Chris and Tony have decided to go without June to Fårö (an island off the coast of Sweden), which is nicknamed Bergman Island, because it’s where Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman famously lived in the later years of his life. The island has become a tourist attraction for Bergman fans who take guided tours of Bergman’s former home and places that he liked to go on the island.

This getaway trip isn’t a complete vacation for Tony and Chris. It’s somewhat of a working trip. Tony has been invited to give a guest lecture, while Chris is trying to get some work done on a screenplay for her next movie. She has writer’s block and is struggling to figure out how to end the film. Viewers will get the impression that Chris and Tony are relatively content with each other, but there’s no real passion in their marriage. They act more like roommates who get along with each other and respect each other.

Chris and Tony aren’t exactly bored with each other, but for a great deal of the trip, they don’t really care to spend a lot of time together. They also make a lot of small talk with each other, as if they’ve run out of meaningful things to discuss. Chris and Tony go on some sightseeing tours together, but at some point, Chris (who gets more screen time than Tony) ends up doing her own activities. It becomes very apparent that Chris and Tony also have very different personalities, which affects how they approach the trip.

A lot of “Bergman Island” is about Chris and Tony meeting some of the local Bergman historians, having dinners with them and going on some sightseeing excursions. However, Chris is a lot more outgoing than introverted Tony. She’s also more interested in meeting new people and having inquisitive conversations with them about their lives, in contrast to to Tony, who limits his conversations with strangers to polite small talk.

Chris is worried about how she’s going to finish her screenplay. Tony doesn’t offer much support because creativity comes easier for him, so he can’t really relate to her writer’s block. It’s implied that Tony doesn’t write a lot of the movies that he directs. He also refrains from giving advice because he thinks that Chris should find her own creative path without interference from him.

While Tony is content to spend time relaxing in their resort room, Chris is more adventurous and spends more time exploring areas on her own and interacting with some of the local people she meets. One of them is a man in his 20s named Hampus (played by Hampus Nordenson), a film student who tells Chris that his grandparents are originally from Fårö. Hampus and Chris end up spending a lot of time alone together, as he shows her places that are not the usual tourist spots.

At one point, Hampus and Chris end up frolicking on a secluded beach with other, in a platonic way. There are hints that Chris and Hampus have a mild attraction to each other, but neither of them acts on it. Hampus and Chris enjoy each other’s company and find out that they have similar tastes in movies and literature.

If “Bergman Island” followed the usual movie formula about a married couple with not much passion in their relationship, someone in Chris and Tony’s marriage would be tempted to commit infidelity on this romantic island. There are hints that Tony has sexual thoughts that he’s not sharing openly with Chris. Shortly after they arrive Fårö, Chris sees in Tony’s journal that he has sketched some drawings of a naked woman in various bondage poses and sexual positions. Next to one of the sketches are these words: “Who are you? You or me?”

Is Tony having an affair? Is he secretly lusting for another woman but hasn’t committed infidelity with her? Or is he just interested in drawing erotic sketches? Don’t expect any answers in this movie. Chris seems somewhat surprised at what she’s discovered in Tony’s journal, but she says nothing to Tony about it because she probably doesn’t want to be accused of snooping.

Chris is more preoccupied with her unfinished screenplay than thinking about infidelity. But it isn’t until the last third of “Bergman Island” that she opens up to Tony and tells him what her screenplay is about, in order to maybe get some feedback or advice from him. When she tells Tony what’s in the screenplay plot so far, the story is depicted on screen in the story-within-a-story part of “Bergman Island.”

The protagonist of Chris’ screenplay is a woman in her 30s named Amy (played by Mia Wasikowska), who’s had a tumultuous on-again/off-again love affair with a guy named Joseph (played by Anders Danielsen Lie), ever since she was 15 and he was 17. It’s unknown if their teenage romance is depicted in Chris’ screenplay. What Chris describes to Tony is the part of the screenplay that is supposed to lead to the ending that Chris has a hard time completing.

After years of not being in contact with each other, Amy and Joseph happen to see each other again because they are guests at a mutual friend’s destination wedding. Amy is now a single mother who is currently not involved in a love relationship. Joseph is not the father of Amy’s child, and Amy doesn’t want to talk about the father of her child.

Meanwhile, Joseph is a never-married bachelor with no children, but he has a serious girlfriend named Michelle back at home whom he says he’s probably going to marry. Amy is not happy to hear this news, because Amy has unresolved feelings for Joseph. It’s enough to say that there are still romantic sparks between Amy and Joseph. Will they or won’t they end up together?

Although all of the principal actors in “Bergman Island” give very good performances (Wasikowska is the standout), the movie seems a little off-kilter by introducing this secondary plot so late in the story. A better narrative structure would have been to weave the secondary story into the main plot in a more seamless way instead of rushing it in toward the last third of the film. Truth be told, Amy and Joseph are a much more intriguing couple than Chris and Tony.

It’s not only because Tony and Chris have settled into a boring marriage. Amy and Joseph just have more interesting things to say to each other. Amy and Joseph are also more passionate with each other and better at expressing themselves, maybe because there’s a lot more at stake with their emotions than “safe” couple Chris and Tony.

“Bergman Island” has some gorgeous cinematography and great scenic shots of Fårö. This movie should be a treat for people who are Bergman fans, since there are plenty of references to his work and personal life in the movie. Without the subplot about Amy and Joseph, “Bergman Island” would not be as compelling to watch. Don’t be surprised if you almost wish that Amy and Joseph’s story had been the main plot, because it seems like Amy and Joseph’s screen time ends too soon.

IFC Films released “Bergman Island” in select U.S. cinemas on October 15, 2021.

2021 New York Film Festival: talks and panels announced

September 22, 2021

The following is a press release from Film at Lincoln Center:

Film at Lincoln Center announces Talks for the 59th New York Film Festival (September 24 – October 10). All NYFF59 Talks are presented by HBO®, supplementing festival screenings with a series of free panel discussions and in-depth conversations among a wide range of guests.

With last year’s NYFF events taking place entirely in virtual and socially distanced drive-in settings, this year’s Talks promise a much-needed and long-awaited return to in-person gatherings, with a robust lineup of spirited and engaging conversations between moderators, filmmakers, and audiences.

2021 marks the birth centenary of NYFF co-founder Amos Vogel. In recognition of this milestone, which is being celebrated with a Vogel tribute in the NYFF59 Spotlight slate, the festival will present the first annual Amos Vogel Lecture. Filmmaker Albert Serra (The Death of Louis XIV, NYFF54; Liberté, NYFF57), whose singular and transgressive approach to cinema epitomizes the vision of Vogel’s landmark text, Film as a Subversive Art, will deliver this inaugural edition of the lecture. The Amos Vogel Centenary Retrospective and lecture are sponsored by MUBI.

Additional highlights include career-spanning Deep Focus dialogues with director Mira Nair, star Sarita Choudhury, and cinematographer Ed Lachman on the making of Revivals selection Mississippi Masala, moderated by novelist Jhumpa Lahiri; Jane Campion in an extended conversation with Sofia Coppola about Campion’s NYFF59 Centerpiece selection The Power of the Dog and its mesmerizing exploration of masculinity; Ryûsuke Hamaguchi on his two Main Slate selections, Drive My Car and Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy; and Apichatpong Weerasethakul in an in-depth conversation about Memoria, his first film set outside of Thailand and his first outing with an international star, Tilda Swinton.

Crosscuts returns after its successful launch last year with pairings of filmmakers across NYFF sections, genres, and styles. This year’s lineup includes conversations between Mia Hansen-Løve (Bergman Island) and Joachim Trier (The Worst Person in the World) as well as Silvan Zürcher (The Girl and the Spider)and Alexandre Koberidze (What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?), with more events to be announced in the coming days.

Roundtable discussions highlight thematic trends within the program and consider the films in the context of wider cultural conversations. Among these: Cinema’s Workers, which will explore past and ongoing labor movements within film and art communities with panelists Abby Sun, Dana Kopel, Kazembe Balagun, and filmmaker Ted Fendt (Outside Noise, NYFF59); and two Film Comment Live conversations presented by the reputed publication. The Velvet Underground &the New York Avant-Garde brings together Todd Haynes, Ed Lachman, and critic Amy Taubin to discuss the making of The Velvet Underground and Songs for Drella, and the enduring legacy of the historic moment of artistic innovation they so vividly capture, while Festival Report enlists a group of critics in a lively wrap-up discussion with Devika Girish and Clinton Krute, Co-Deputy Editors of Film Comment, about the NYFF59 lineup.

Talks are organized by Devika Girish and Madeline Whittle, in collaboration with Eugene Hernandez and Dennis Lim.

Free tickets for NYFF59 Talks will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis beginning one hour prior to each event at the corresponding box office. Tickets are limited to one per person, subject to availability. For those unable to attend, video from these events will be available online on Film at Lincoln Center’s YouTube channel at a later date.

NYFF59 will feature in-person screenings, as well as select outdoor events. In response to distributor and filmmaker partners and in light of festivals returning and theaters reopening across the country, NYFF will not offer virtual screenings for this year’s edition.

Proof of full vaccination will be required for all staff, audiences, and filmmakers at NYFF59 venues. FLC requires all guests to maintain face coverings consistent with the current CDC guidelines inside their spaces regardless of vaccination status. Additionally, NYFF59 will adhere to a comprehensive series of health and safety policies in coordination with Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and state and city medical experts, while adapting as necessary to the current health crisis. Visit filmlinc.org/safety for more information.

Presented by Film at Lincoln Center, the New York Film Festival highlights the best in world cinema and takes place September 24 – October 10, 2021. An annual bellwether of the state of cinema that has shaped film culture since 1963, the festival continues an enduring tradition of introducing audiences to bold and remarkable works from celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new talent.

DESCRIPTIONS


THE 2021 AMOS VOGEL LECTURE: Albert Serra

2021 marks the birth centenary of Amos Vogel, the pioneering film programmer, author, and co-founder of the New York Film Festival. As the flagship event of NYFF’s corresponding tribute, the festival is inaugurating the Amos Vogel Lecture, to be delivered annually by an artist or commentator who embodies the spirit of Vogel’s cinephilia and brings it into conversation with the present and future of the medium. For this first edition, we are proud to welcome the filmmaker Albert Serra (The Death of Louis XIV, NYFF54; Liberté, NYFF57). Serra’s singular and transgressive approach to cinema epitomizes the vision of Vogel’s landmark text, Film as a Subversive Art, whose French edition features a foreword by the director. Serra’s original lecture will be followed by a conversation with the programmers of the NYFF59 Spotlight sidebar devoted to Vogel’s curatorial legacy. Sponsored by MUBI.

Tuesday, October 5, 4:00pm, Walter Reade Theater

DEEP FOCUS

In-depth dialogues with festival filmmakers & their collaborators

The Making of Mississippi Masala

Moderated by Jhumpa Lahiri

Released in 1991, Mira Nair’s Mississippi Masala endures as a breakthrough work of American independent and diasporic cinema. The rare film to explore relations between South Asian and African-American communities in the South, Nair’s second fiction feature stars Sarita Choudhury as a Ugandan Indian refugee who falls for a self-employed carpet cleaner played by Denzel Washington, cueing familial and communal tensions and pitting passion against tradition. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the film’s release and the premiere of its new restoration in NYFF59’s Revivals section, join us for a conversation with Nair, Choudhury, and cinematographer Ed Lachman, moderated by the writer Jhumpa Lahiri, whose novel, The Namesake, Nair adapted in 2006. Sponsored by Turner Classic Movies (TCM).

This event will take place in Damrosch Park immediately following the September 25 screening of Mississippi Masala and will be accessible to ticket-holders.

Jane Campion

Moderated by Sofia Coppola

Following her Best Director win at this year’s Venice Film Festival, Jane Campion returns to NYFF with her first feature since 2009’s Bright StarThe Power of the Dog, the Centerpiece selection of NYFF59. Known for her incisive portraits of womanhood, Campion turns her lens to masculinity in this new film, which adapts Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel of the same name. The results are thrilling: The Power of the Dog is a mesmerizing, psychologically rich variation on the American western, and a compassionate examination of repressed sexuality and the fragility of patriarchy. We are thrilled to welcome the legendary New Zealand director for an extended conversation with filmmaker Sofia Coppola (On the Rocks, NYFF58) about this latest entry in Campion’s masterful, decades-spanning career.

Saturday, October 2, 4:00pm, Amphitheater.

Ryûsuke Hamaguchi

Making his return to NYFF with not one but two Main Slate selections, Japanese filmmaker Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (Asako I & II, NYFF56) affirms his stature as a true rising star of world cinema, and one of the foremost chroniclers of the ebbs and flows of human relationships. With Drive My Car and Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy—a pair of vividly realized and ceaselessly surprising emotional epics—Hamaguchi demonstrates his singular talent for tracing the intricate workings of the heart amid the perennial paradoxes of modern life. Join us for an in-depth conversation with the writer-director to explore the resonances and shared preoccupations of his new films and his prolific body of work.

Sunday, October 3, 7:00pm, Amphitheater

Apichatpong Weerasethakul

For over two decades, Apichatpong Weerasethakul has been celebrated as one of world cinema’s most original auteurs, with films that constantly refract and reinscribe the contours of narrative, reality, and temporality. His new feature—which comes six years after 2015’s Cemetery of Splendour (NYFF53)—reaffirms his peerless status even as it takes the Thai auteur into uncharted territory: Memoria is Apichatpong’s first film set outside of Thailand, in Colombia; his first English- and Spanish-language venture; and his first outing with a bona fide international star, Tilda Swinton. We are thrilled to welcome the filmmaker for a deep-dive conversation about his extraordinary oeuvre and the elliptical novelties and familiar mysteries of his latest masterwork.

Thursday, October 7, 6:30pm, Amphitheater

CROSSCUTS

Conversations between filmmakers across festival sections, genres, and styles

Mia Hansen-Løve & Joachim Trier

With their respective NYFF59 Main Slate selections Bergman Island and The Worst Person in the World, Mia Hansen-Løve (Things to Come, NYFF54) and Joachim Trier (Thelma, NYFF55) achieve new creative heights in their parallel trajectories as two of the preeminent European filmmakers of their generation. Both artists have spent the last 15 years interrogating, with great compassion, the moral and emotional crosscurrents that undergird human behavior, and their latest films refine these inquiries with an invigorating reflexive frankness. Join the two writer-directors for a conversation about their influences and inspirations, their distinctively personal and philosophical approaches to cinematic storytelling, and the endlessly generative themes of romantic ambivalence and evolving self-knowledge that animate their new films.

Monday, September 27, 7:00pm, Amphitheater

Silvan Zürcher & Alexandre Koberidze

In an NYFF lineup with a record number of new and emerging filmmakers, Alexandre Koberidze’s What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? and Ramon and Silvan Zürcher’s The Girl and the Spider—both sophomore features—stand out for their sui generis approaches to cinematic narrative and form. Formally assured and intellectually audacious, the two films, in their own unique ways, electrify the quotidian with currents of desire, romance, and modern myth. We’re excited to bring Silvan Zürcher and Koberidze together to discuss their filmic inspirations and aspirations; their trajectories within Swiss and Georgian cinema, respectively, and in world cinema at large; and their experiences at the renowned DFFB (the German Film and Television Academy Berlin), which all three directors attended.

Saturday, October 2, 7:00pm, Amphitheater

ROUNDTABLES

Panels and discussions that connect the festival to the themes of the moment

Cinema’s Workers

Moderated by Gina Telaroli

The phrase “dream factory” has long been invoked to capture the magical, transporting allure of the American film industry, but too often, as consumers, our fascination with the dream obscures the factory: the workforce that breathes life into the movies and delivers them to audiences. Behind the glitz and glamor of cinema is the labor of seen and unseen workers across the fields of production, distribution, exhibition, and curation. As questions of labor and equity take center stage in art communities in New York and beyond, this roundtable brings together a multifaceted group of film workers to discuss past and ongoing labor movements in cinema. Panelists include Abby Sun (curator, the DocYard, My Sight Is Lined with Visions), filmmaker Ted Fendt (Outside Noise, NYFF59), Kazembe Balagun (project manager, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York Office), and Dana Kopel (writer, editor, and organizer).

Sunday, September 26, 7:00pm, Amphitheater

Film Comment Live: The Velvet Underground & the New York Avant-Garde

Two films in this year’s NYFF lineup take us back to the ‘60s heyday of the New York avant-garde: in the Main Slate, Todd Haynes’s The Velvet Underground offers a revelatory portrait of the milieu that gave rise to the eponymous band and its boundary-pushing music, while in Revivals, Ed Lachman’s Songs for Drella captures Lou Reed and John Cale in concert, paying tribute to the late Andy Warhol with riveting intimacy. Presented by the editors of Film Comment, this special roundtable brings together Haynes, Lachman, and critic Amy Taubin to discuss the making of the two films as well as the enduring legacy of the historic moment of artistic innovation they so vividly capture.

Sunday, October 3, 4:00pm, Damrosch Park

Film Comment Live: Festival Report

For the festival’s final week, a group of critics will gather together for a spirited wrap-up discussion with Devika Girish and Clinton Krute, Co-Deputy Editors of Film Comment, about the movies they’ve seen in the NYFF59 lineup. Panelists include Molly Haskell (critic and author), Bilge Ebiri (staff critic, Vulture), and Phoebe Chen (critic and scholar).

Saturday, October 9, 7:00pm, Amphitheater

FILM AT LINCOLN CENTER

Film at Lincoln Center is dedicated to supporting the art and elevating the craft of cinema and enriching film culture.

Film at Lincoln Center fulfills its mission through the programming of festivals, series, retrospectives, and new releases; the publication of Film Comment; and the presentation of podcasts, talks, special events, and artist initiatives. Since its founding in 1969, this nonprofit organization has brought the celebration of American and international film to the world-renowned Lincoln Center arts complex, making the discussion and appreciation of cinema accessible to a broad audience and ensuring that it remains an essential art form for years to come.

Support for the New York Film Festival is generously provided by Official Partners HBO, Campari, The New York Times, and Vanity Fair’sAwards Insider; Benefactor Partners Netflix and Citi; Supporting Partners Topic Studios, Hearst, and Radeberger Pilsner; Contributing Partners Dolby, Turner Classic Movies, Manhattan Portage, NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, and UniFrance; and Media Partners Variety, Vulture, Deadline HollywoodThe Hollywood Reporter, WABC-7, The WNET Group, and IndieWire. All NYFF59 Talks are presented by HBO. American Airlines is the Official Airline of Film at Lincoln Center.

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