This film set in the home of filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, in the style of Bergman, with its characters also writing film scripts in the style of Bergman, is a bit too meta for me. The beautiful island of Faro in Sweden is a charming and serene setting for all of these screenwriters, but other than a lot of artistic navel-gazing, nothing much happens. Note: Les Filles du docteur March 2019 Streaming
Even the formidable Tim Roth (“Reservoir Dogs,” “Lie to Me”) is muted as a celebrated filmmaker himself, so obsessed with Bergman that he and his – you guessed it – filmmaker wife decide to spend their summer on Faro (“Bergman”) Island for inspiration. Note: Cinquante nuances de Grey 2015 Streaming
Vicky Krieps as his wife (“Phantom Thread” and “Old”) is her typically stoic self, exploring nothing below the surface in her story or her “story.” Half the film was shot without a male lead in 2018 and the second half a year later, which might help explain the distance between the couple and their lack of chemistry, although that may also have been intentional on the part of the creators. Note: The Guilty 2021 Streaming
Roth and Krieps are a bland couple who only seem to discuss Bergman or their own writing, but dialog isn’t this film’s strongpoint in any case. The film focuses on casual observation without any commentary or even exploration of any real plotlines along the way. Note: Fast & Furious 9 2021 Streaming
Bergman himself had five wives and nine children and the characters in “Bergman Island” do ponder his morality and how it may have affected his art, but only superficially and in passing. I found myself moving from one scene to the next wondering if this would be the one to finally reveal the purpose of the film and where it was going, but to no avail. Note: Shang-Chi et la Légende des Dix Anneaux 2021 Streaming
The film even falls short of the “day in the life” trope, with only the most pedestrian few moments of each day spliced together. The second half, if you stay, explores the somewhat interesting concepts of how to separate art from the artist and how the writing process bleeds into real life and vice versa, but even those really go nowhere.
There are three distinct phases of the film, just as there are 3 phases to the film within the film. The first phase focuses on the aforementioned writerly couple arriving on the island to write for the summer and settling into their (boring) lives there. Note: Black Widow 2021 Streaming
The second phase begins as Krieps’ character starts telling Roth the details of the script she is writing, which is also about an inconsequential couple on the very same island. The third phase is the shortest, but the only one that held any interest for me, though brief. In these final fifteen or so minutes of the film, the characters from the real story in phase one and the fictitious characters from phase two start to meld together in their minds and in their storytelling.
As Krieps wades deeper into the recounting of her screenplay, the tone and players start to feel familiar until the story and what, as the audience, we had seen as reality up to this point start to blur. There are soon hints of overlap in the stories and even characters crossing over to talk to their creator until the final act melds these two sets of characters and it is no longer clear which was the story and which was reality. (As I write this, it actually sounds more interesting than it played out in truth, but the concept did finally start to involve me in this heretofore unremarkable movie). Read More: Wesley Snipes shares his true story
Were they all just characters in a story after all? The answer is “yes” anyway you choose to look at it. There’s also some talk of ghosts and of haunting in “Bergman Island”, so maybe it’s even a ghost story, but which are the ghosts? I did learn more about Ingmar Bergman, one of the most celebrated filmmakers of all time, than I ever wanted to know, so there’s that. Note: Ohio premiere of ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ at Avenue Arts in Canton
Simonie Wilson, whose love of movies began as a child in the ’70s going to drive-ins with her family, has been a resident of the Northland for more than a decade. She is a board member of the Kansas City Film Critics Circle and a Women Film Critics Circle member. She can be reached online at www.facebook.com/RedVineReviewer.