Bergman Island | Third Space
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Bergman Island

Wed 24 Nov 2021
What is this film trying to say?
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2.5 out 5 stars

Ingmar Bergman may not be as familiar to mainstream audiences today. Still, in his lifetime and throughout cinematic history, he wore the label of one of the great directors of all time. Those who are genuinely fans of his work would know that most of his films were filmed on the Swedish island of Fårö, which is now an artist's haven to travel to with the hope of tapping into the master’s inspirational spaces.

This is the setting for French director Mia Hansen-Løve’s latest project that follows the experiences of fifilmmakers Chris (Vicky Krieps) and Tony (Tim Roth) Sanders. They have travelled to the island to support a screening of one of Tony’s films and allow Chris to begin writing her latest screenplay. She is not as enamoured of the legendary director as her husband. Yet, she attempts to explore the history of the man, his family and the value of his work. As the writer attempts to work through her writer’s block and deal with missing her daughter, she gets drawn into the spiritual influence of the island.

After exploring the key destinations well documented about Bergman’s former home, she begins to write. Even though she struggles through the process, Chris decides to share her story with Tony as they take a stroll through the fields surrounding their guest house. This romantic tale involves two former lovers, Amy (Mia Wasikowska) and Joseph (Anders Danielsen Lie), who meet as they travel to Fårö. The two of them are meant to attend the wedding of mutual friends, which leads to them getting together despite being in other relationships. As Chris continues to share this twisted romantic rendezvous, her life suddenly begins to intertwine with the screenplay.

For those unfamiliar with Bergman’s work, it might be worth viewing The Seventh Seal or Wild Strawberries before attempting the disjointed experience of Hansen-Løve’s work. Even though it will take a bit of labour to appreciate her nod to the iconic filmmaker, this homework will assist the viewer. These films will help to see a faint appreciation for this young director's adoration for Bergman. She leaves many elements to the audience's imagination and challenges us to keep up with where she takes both of her lead couples as they travel around the island.

Tim Roth and Anders Danielsen Lie are bit players in this romantic, existential drama. At the same time, Krieps and Wasikowska are given the lion’s share of the film. Both show their skills in depicting the mental and emotional anguish of lost love with a depth synonymous with French cinema and some of Bergman's style. They deliver convincing and languishing performances that leave little room for hope. Which begs the question of who this film is meant to appeal to in the end? Some could say it is for Ingmar Bergman fans, while others say it will draw in the arthouse crowd. Both will appreciate this storyline and the grief-stricken message that it conveys. Still, it is unlikely that mainstream audiences will understand what this tale is trying to say.

Reel Dialogue: Wouldn't life be better if we did not have trials?

One obvious thing with Chris Sanders' (Vicky Krieps) world is that she needs to go through trials to bring out the best in her work. Her husband seems to know this and even adds to some of the tension, but as she embraced these difficulties, the writer could write her story. Something we all can attest to in life, even though we strive to find comfort and seek after the least painful means of living. From pain medication to air-conditioning, life in the western world can be relatively pain-free, but is this the ideal?

Looking back at history, mankind proves that hardship can bring out the best in us all. Few people seek out difficulties in their lives because they come without having to look for them. When confronted by these challenges, the personal development and testimonies generally show what individuals have within themselves.

This is evident in biblical history, also. Each book of the Old Testament and New Testament shows that life tribulations can provide actual growth for people in the past. These lessons can be a gift for us today. This is epitomised in the life and times of Jesus, whose painful end brought forward the answer for all of our trials.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. - 1 Peter 5:10

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