When writing couple Chris (Vicky Krieps) and Tony (Tim Roth) arrive on Fårö, the Swedish island where famed director Ingmar Bergman made his home, they intend to use the location as creative inspiration. However, they find themselves growing further apart, with Tony more focused on promoting his current film whilst Chris struggles with her latest script. Chris’s internal frustrations spill over into the film’s second narrative – that of Amy (Mia Wasikowska), who arrives on Fårö for a friend’s wedding but ends up reconnecting with her ex-boyfriend Joseph (Anders Danielsen Lie) despite the two of them already having other partners.

Writer/ director Hansen-Løve’s combination of the two narratives helps to provide a sense of metatextuality that links Chris’s script with her relationship with Tony, as Amy’s affair with Joseph could be subconsciously representative of Chris’s dissatisfaction with her life with Tony. The distant nature of Chris and Tony’s relationship isn’t made overt, yet their early disagreements over their respective work and her decision to take the Bergman tour of Fårö alone imply that they are not as close as they once were.

These aspects, along with the narrative of Amy and Joseph, owe a considerable amount to the works of Bergman himself, although neither set of characters ever sink to the emotional depths of Bergman’s protagonists. This helps to link the characters more closely with the themes of Bergman’s work rather than simply relying on overt references to his films, which can be seen in characters in both strands discussing Bergman as well as Chris and Tony watching a 35mm screening of Cries and Whispers.

The performances are all impressive, with Roth effectively conveying Tony’s unthinking self-centredness as he focuses on his upcoming project, as well as a screening of his latest film at the expense of his relationship with Chris. Wasikowska and Danielsen Lie also share an undeniable chemistry as Amy and Joseph, with Wasikowska in particular excelling in depicting Amy’s emotions wordlessly during a pivotal scene at a dance. However, it is Krieps who most impresses, as she portrays Chris’s frustration with her life in a subtle, naturalistic manner that gets across the character’s feelings more effectively than a more heightened performance would have.

Ultimately, Bergman Island works as not only a celebration and discussion of Bergman as a director, but also as a skilful intertwining of ‘real’ and fictional narratives in order to show the relationship between a writer’s reality and their work, specifically how the former affects the latter.

Screening @Filmhouse, Edinburgh until Thu 16 Jun 2022