On the occasion of the presentation in competition of “Bergman Island” at Cannes 2021, meeting with the filmmaker Mia Hansen Love and the actors Vicky Krieps and Tim Roth;
AlloCiné met the Bergman Island team, indoors this Wednesday. Check out our video interview with Mia Hansen Love, Vicky Krieps and Tim Roth, and our in-depth written interview with the filmmaker below;
The synopsis of Bergman Island: A couple of filmmakers settle down to write for a summer on the Swedish island of Fårö, where Bergman lived. As their respective scenarios progress, and in contact with the wild landscapes of the island, the border between fiction and reality blurs …
AlloCiné: At the heart of this film, there is the island of Farö which gives it its title ? Was this place the first inspiration for you ?
Mia Hansen-Love, screenwriter and director: The film’s primary inspiration is rather the question of the couple, as well as the creation and vocation within a couple. But the film really came to life when Farö became the setting. I had this project in mind for several years. I told myself that one day I would make a film that would explore this question of inspiration and at the same time; It was an idea that accompanied me.
It’s true that the sets are very important in my films and it’s really the confrontation between the characters and the sets that make my films come to life. This is what happened with Farö.
At one point, I thought that Farö might be the setting, the ideal place to tell this story, to project this imagination. I went there without being completely sure what would happen. And indeed, it was kind of love at first sight.
What does it feel like when you go to Farö for the first time ?
For me, it’s a bit of a magical place. It is very beautiful. So of course, when you love Bergman’s cinema, it’s very moving to go there because you can feel his presence everywhere. There are also people who take care of keeping his memory alive on the island. He is also present through the films he shot there. He is present through the houses where he has lived, but he is also present through the people who pass on their love for Bergman.
When you are sensitive to Bergman’s cinema, it is a very strong, very moving place. Obviously, it is also a haunted place. But it’s not just that. There is also the beauty of this city itself and its landscapes to which I am very sensitive.
There is of course the power of Bergman’s work and the way it was inscribed in the landscape, but also the wild beauty, the unspoiled character, the silence of this island which left me a possible space to invest in it with my own sensitivity, my own gaze.
We keep at the head of this film in particular landscapes full of light, a film overall very bright. Did you want just that, a solar and luminous film, probably the brightest of your filmography? ?
I don’t know if it was formulated that way, but indeed there was a quest for light. I believe that all my films are more or less so, even if some can sometimes tackle difficult, dark subjects. But despite everything, the relationship between cinema is such that I need my films, in one way or another, to shine through. And it is true that in Farö, it was for me the chance to be able to film the light of the North, which is also that of my origins.
I have long felt an attraction for this light. Trying to capture it and bring it to life, to feel the vibration, through the film. It was one of the things that really excited me about this project.
From film to film, you seem to obsess over this theme of inspiration, and as you said before, it took you a little while to approach it so head-on …
Yes, it’s a theme that runs through all my cinema, I find it hard to get rid of it. To tell the truth, I would like to be able to make a film that does not talk about it at all. I will say that it is more about vocation, maybe more than the theme of inspiration.
In any case, the question of vocation has been present in my films, since the first one. But it had never been so frontal, since this is the first time that I have directed a film where the heroine is a filmmaker as I am.
There is this dimension which can make one think that it is the most autobiographical of my films. I do not believe this is the case. I believe that all of my films are extremely personal, each in their own way, but this one is, let’s say in a way that can be more frontal. The time it took me to get to this film is the time to be able to approach this question so directly.
Do you think you have covered the question with this film? Or perhaps we never really answer this question?
The question: what is cinema for me? What’s the point? What is the link between cinema and life? How do we write? How, despite weaknesses that may seem insurmountable, does something still happen? And it ends up becoming a movie, a form of magic or the operation which is this transition from a form of suffering into something joyful;
How it works? I was interested in trying to capture it through film and find a form that reflects exactly what the process of writing is. For me, it is never really answered. It’s fascinating to explore. Of course, I haven’t covered the question and in general, my films, I believe, ask more questions than they answer. And this film is another example of this way of making cinema.
I do not make a demonstrative cinema; I am not making a message cinema. I hope to make a cinema that questions. The film doesn’t necessarily give all the answers, but it seeks to explore questions that have been with me since I started making films.
The cast of the film is very interesting, with in particular the presence of Tim Roth in a role quite different for him. Did you have in mind to shoot in English from the start, and why this choice for Tim Roth?
The film has always been designed in English. I never imagined making this film in French. I think maybe it has to do with the fact that the film is so personal and might seem so autobiographical because of the fact that it was about a female filmmaker. Suddenly, this language brings distance, to be able to really project myself into a fiction. In each of my films, if there is an element of autobiography, there is an element of reinvention, of transpositions.
And for this film, it meant imagining a couple who are not a couple of French filmmakers. I could never have made this film by directing a couple of French filmmakers, it would have been in a way too close to me. I felt like I was doing some kind of documentary about my life. What interested me in spite of everything, and as personal as my films are, they are resolutely fictions, and that is the whole question that the film addresses.
Tim Roth is an actor that I admire enormously. I had seen him, like many, in many films, but also in films less known than those of Tarantino, like the first one, the one in which he played, that of Alan Clarke, a filmmaker whom I admire enormously .
He arrived quite late on the film because the story of the film is quite complicated. It was a great saga. We shot it on two. At first it was supposed to be a role for an American actor and Tim is English of Irish descent, so it took me a while to get to him.
I think what attracted me to him was not so much his character aura in the face of his very virile, disturbing, harsh characters, which he played, even if that is also, obviously, part of him. . But it’s more the complexity that is his. In fact, there is something paradoxical about him because there is this harshness. There is this violence that he embodies on the screen, that he has often embodied. And at the same time, there is a form of opacity and fragility in him that I think I tried to capture in the film. It’s a very simple role. It’s not a compositional role like other roles he may have played.
Interview at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival
The Bergman Island trailer, in competition at Cannes and on display from July 14: