Perennial festival darling Mia Hansen-Løve returns for another film that is destined to receive plenty of critical acclaim if not much commercia success. Bergman Island like all Hansen-Løve films focuses on mastering the intimate to tell a story that is both incredibly specific and eminently relatable at the same time.
Bergman Island tells the story of Chris (Vicky Krieps) who follows her husband Tony (Tim Roth) to the titular Bergman Island to work on her next film while her husband teaches a series of masterclasses. After a prolonged bout with writer’s block, she takes inspiration from her surroundings and writes most of her next project. The second half of the movie cuts between the movie’s reality and the Chris’s eventual film within the film starring Mia Wasikowska as Amy and Anders Danielsen Lie as Joseph.
Set on the isle of Fårö, Bergman Island leans heavily on the rich cinematic history of its setting. Hansen-Løve fills her camera with iconic imagery whenever possible but does not let the film turn into a simple travel brochure. Everything is in subservience of her characters. Chris, Tony, and Amy are all filmmakers, so their connection to the island and its famous locations provides a reason for the shots of Bergman’s legacy. The balance of utilizing her setting and but not letting the setting use her is a real strength Hansen-Løve shows throughout the film.
The film’s genius shines through the most in the second half when telling of Chris’s in progress movie leads to a blend of reality. Amy and Joseph while creations of Chris’s work also serve as proxies for the married couple. Hansen-Løve is a master of character work, and these doppelgangers allow her to flex those muscles. Chris and Tony’s relationship and life circumstances are dissimilar from that of Amy and Joseph and yet Hansen-Løve finds the through lines and creates a rich tapestry of human emotions and relations for the viewer to sample.
In her latest outing, director Mia Hansen-Løve delivers another superb picture featuring her strength of capturing interpersonal relationships. Her lead characters that the complexities of their emotions are front and center to the story. The stunt location decision feeds into her story seamlessly without becoming a distraction, and the decision to utilize a film within a film builds wonderful character depth. Bergman Island is a wonderful specimen of quiet yet deeply personal storytelling.