A female director (Vicky Krieps), in a relationship with an older filmmaker (Tim Roth), spends time at a creative retreat on the island of Faro in the Baltic Sea, the famous home and workplace of Ingmar Bergman. There, she develops an idea about a young woman (played by Mia Wasikowska, in an enchanting film in the film), also a filmmaker, who visits Faro for a wedding and reconnects with her former lover (Anders Danielsen Lie).
Factor in the autobiographical element – Bergman IslandThe writer-director, Mia Hansen-Løve, was in a relationship herself with an older filmmaker, Olivier Assayas – and the story begins to feel like a breaking prism through the overlap of characters and creator. In the hands of Hansen-Løve, it’s a delicate millefeuille, layering story upon story, character upon character, until it’s hard to pull them apart.
Kriep’s character, Chris, approaches storytelling in a curious and engaged way; she asks questions and investigates. It seems likely that Hansen-Løve follows the same route: Bergman Island has a languid, meandering pace and a plot defined by chance encounters and discoveries.
The score, a delicate motif made from the unlikely combination of harp, recorders and bagpipes, captures the somewhat unconventional beauty of the island. But it is a location Chris encounters: “All that peace and perfection, I find it oppressive.” Likewise, she is disappointed with what she learns about Bergman herself. With the “Bergman safari” and its competitive filmmakers making personal claims on the great man’s work, Hansen-Løve gently pokes fun at a presumptuous author, letting her wives direct the story instead.