(director/writer: Mia Hansen-Love; cinematographer: Denis Lenoir; editor: Marion Monnier; cast: Vicky Krieps (Chris), Tim Roth (Tony), Mia Wasikowsa (Amy), Joel Spira (Jonas), Anders Danielsen Lie (Joseph),  Gabe Klinger (American man), Hampus Nordenson (Hampus), Anki Larsson (Asa), Kerstin Brunnberg (Birgit), Melinda Kinnaman (Berit), Stig Björkman (Stig); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: R; producers; Charles Gillibert, Erik Hemmendorff, Rodrigo Teixeira: IFC Films; 2021)

“It’s so well-acted and always interesting in its speculations about the Man.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The young Parisian filmmaker Mia Hansen-Love (“Maya”/”Eden”) is writer and director of this titillating minor but intense art-house drama, a sort of tribute to the great Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman that’s not actually a tribute but more a tale about how Bergman still influences filmmakers and some commentary on how he handled his creative life and family life (he was married four times and had nine children). It’s set on the sparsely populated island of Fårö, in the Baltic Sea, where the master lived and worked (he shot “Scenes from a Marriage” here and the rented cottage used is the same one used in the film) for a time and made many of his greatest films on Faro, and also died on the island in 2007.

The film’s about American filmmakers Tony (Tim Roth, British actor) and his less famous and less developed filmmaker wife Chris (Vicky Krieps, Luxembourg actress), who leave their young daughter behind in New York with relatives while both spend the summer on the beautifully wild island in a rented cottage while he works on a screenplay, goes to Bergman
screenings and hosts a writer’s conference panel discussion while she works on a script about ‘first love’ and tours the island alone, as they breathe the same air that inspired the legendary Swede and even made him see ghosts.

Each filmmaker will be swept away by the magical island’s lore, as in time the lines between reality and fiction will progressively blur and tear our couple even further apart than before their visit. That the film keeps going from reality to fiction and then back to reality again, gives it space for us to think if it’s possible for a serious artist to raise a family and fully be attentive to his or her creative work. It also raises questions about what it means to be a woman artist.

Mia in real life is a director of seven personal films and her ex is the celebrated filmmaker Olivier Assayas, with whom she has a fifteen year relationship and a child. We can assume correctly that Tony and Vicky,  on their working-vacation, are substitutes for Mia’s relationship with her partner–something Mia does not dispute.

The film twists the narrative around, as Mia Wasikowska’s Amy, a successful New York based director, comes alone to Faro Island to attend a wedding where she will meet again her first love, the opportunistic Joseph (Anders Danielsen Lie), as the main plot is engulfed by the drama film directed by Vicky, “The White Dress.” We now follow it as a ‘film within the film.’ Amy’s tale brings some fun to the melancholy moods typically set by a Bergman film.

It should be noted the Bergman movie runs through a list of his films but the film is more about Mia Hansen-Love’s quest to find romance, creativity and relationships in her life than in tracking Bergman’s visions down. That it’s so well-acted and always interesting in its speculations about the Man, is the main reason I got so absorbed in it.

REVIEWED ON 9/27/2021  GRADE: B+