From Todd McCarthy’s Deadline pan, posted on 7.12: “Breathing in the air that the master breathed, staying in his home and becoming saturated with all manner of first-hand Bergman-iana has in no way qualified Bergman Island writer-director Mia Hansen-Love to be mentioned in the same breath as the late Swedish master Ingmar Bergman, much less make a film about his aura and legacy.
“This story of a filmmaking couple — Tony (Tim Roth) and Chris (Vicky Krieps) — who make a pilgrimage to Faro Island to soak in the man’s influence, is a very poor excuse for an homage except as a travelogue. When Woody Allen did it, it was both sincere and very funny.”
In a phrase: “Lazy, unimaginative and incapable of expressing admiration for Bergman in any meaningful way.”
“The first 20 minutes of Bergman Island hold a certain interest simply on a touristic basis. It’s hard to think of any other filmmaker whose home, like those of certain presidents, has become a travel destination. Still, I once made a pilgrimage to Yasujiro Ozu’s grave in Japan; on his tombstone is simply inscribed the word ‘mu,’ which means ‘everything and nothing.’
“’How can I sit here and not feel like a loser?,’ cries Chris in despair as she sizes up Bergman’s body of work, which not only consists of 30-odd scripts and films but also plays and books. Well, you probably can’t, but Chris has to find out the hard way by getting down to work with Tony on a script she’s been thinking about.
“She figures that sitting in Ingmar’s chair and just existing in his lingering aura might be enough to inspire them to unprecedented heights of creativity on their next project. Ahhh, how presumptuous mere creative mortals can be.”
I’ve mentioned this a few times, but 14 years ago I wrote about the idea of channeling a little “residual Ingmar” myself. Instead of absorbing the spirit of Bergman from his home, I flirted with the notion that possibly having sex with Bergman favorite Harriet Andersson (whom I met at a Manhattan party in the early ’80s, when she was pushing 50) might have the same effect.
“A Little Residual Ingmar,” originally posted on 7.31.07:
The closest contact I ever had with Ingmar Bergman, so to speak, was a night in 1981 or ’82 when I talked for a long while with Harriet Andersson, who had a relationship with Bergman in the ’50s and starred in various Bergman films of that general period (including Summer With Monika, Sawdust and Tinsel, Through a Glass Darkly) and later costarred in Fanny and Alexander.
There was actually a little more than talking going on. There was enough of an attraction that after 90 minutes or so Andersson suggested that we could perhaps leave the party (some invitational soiree on behalf of Swedish filmmakers that was happening in some cavernous space in Soho or Tribeca) and head uptown and…who knew?
I knew one thing: an attractive middle-aged woman (she was nudging 50 but looked a good ten or twelve years younger) who had once been entwined with the great Ingmar Bergman was now somewhat interested in me. I was certainly flattered.
If you believe that lovers pass along certain particles and auras to each other and that these are somehow absorbed and become part of who and what they are for the rest of their lives, I was thinking that on some ethereal level I might absorb a little residual Ingmar.
But instead of grabbing a cab, Andersson arranged for us to ride uptown in a limo with a group of her Swedish film industry friends, including actor Erland Josephson, who had starred in several Bergman films himself including Hour of the Wolf, The Touch, Cries and Whispers and Scenes from a Marriage.
There were five or six of us crammed into the back seat, and it was only a matter of ten or twelve seconds before they all realized what was going on and starting making joke after joke. In Swedish, of course, but translations were unnecessary.
The mockery and the giggling and the howling went on for two or three minutes, but it felt like a non-stop barrage to me. I tried to smile and be a good sport at first, but after a minute or so my eyes froze over.
I distinctly remember Josephson being the worst of them. He was slightly in his cups and looking at me with a certain fiendish glee as he let go with one derisive snort after another. The import, more or less, was “Hah!…you worthless nobody!…you think you are good enough to lie down with Harriet?…think again!”
By the time we were let off at Andersson’s hotel at 59th Street and 7th Avenue, I was on the verge of vomiting. It was all I could do to say “very nice meeting you” to Andersson before turning and walking off. She’d been howling along with the rest of them, after all. Nice.