Mia Hansen-Løve • Director of Bergman Island
“You’d think his almighty presence would feel very intimidating, but to me it was the opposite”
by Jan Lumholdt
- CANNES 2021: Not just an homage to the mega-auteur of cinema and his mythical home, the French director’s film is also a homecoming of sorts for her
After years of preparation, Mia Hansen-Løve now premieres Bergman Island [+see also:
interview: Mia Hansen-Løve
film profile] in the main competition at the Cannes Film Festival. Not just a homage to the mega-auteur of Swedish (and world) cinema and his mythical home on Fårö island, it is also a homecoming of sorts for the film’s French director, back to her own Nordic roots.
Cineuropa: Can you give a short version of the journey from your first Ingmar Bergman memory to the creation of this film?
Mia Hansen-Løve: That would take an hour, but I can try. I have no immediate first memory. It has got deeper and more progressive, year by year, film by film. I started watching his films in my twenties and have never stopped since. Some I’ve watched so many times I don’t even remember the first time. I recall reading his autobiography, The Magic Lantern, after having seen only a few of his films. My movie was born before it was set on Fårö, as an idea about a director couple out on location, dealing with the difficulties, mysteries and strengths of a creative process, and the power you can find in your own vulnerability once you face it. Fårö was already a mythical place for me, as it is for those who admire Bergman. When he died, there was an auction to sell off all of his belongings. And this meeting between the Bergman of the legends and the real person, the human being through his objects – some of them banal, some of great significance – felt inspiring to me. Then I heard about the Bergman Week and met Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, who had just been there. So layer by layer, it grew up to a point where I thought that this idea of mine for a story could work in this place. Then I went there in 2015, and it was just… Pow!
Despite the admiration, you also bring in some mischief, not least during the “Bergman Safari”, a bus tour filled with passionate critics acting like tourists while dissecting trilogy theories along the way.
Definitely mischief, but also tenderness and no contempt, at least not on purpose. I love the fact that cinephiles want to go there and take pictures of a house that only existed as a backdrop they tore down 60 years ago. Tourism tends to look quite ridiculous and superficial, and I look at it with a certain humour but also a respect for the passion of the cinephiles. But just like Chris in the film, I also like to form my own relationship with the island, which she does when she meets Hampus, with his local connection.
How was your own experience of being a filmmaker on the island – working with the same light as Sven Nykvist?
[Laughs] No, I felt that I was working with a Northern light, which was very strong and very stimulating. You know, I have a Danish name, a Danish grandfather and part of my family is Danish, although many of them died before I was born. But I have felt an attraction to this culture for a long time, and now, strangely, I felt at home on Fårö. You’d think his almighty presence would feel very intimidating, but to me it was the opposite. It was very welcoming.
Could you see yourself taking the Bergman journey further one day, perhaps doing a version of one of his films?
I was once offered the chance to work on a Bergman adaptation – I won’t say which one, because the person who proposed it may not want this to get out – but I would be too shy to follow directly in his footsteps. What I would love to do again is to go back to Fårö and write another film, perhaps totally unrelated to Bergman. I have never enjoyed writing a film as much as I enjoyed it there. I have never found the same quality of meditative quietness anywhere else as I did there, in the room we see in the film.
What is your favourite Bergman film and why?
I have no favourite Bergman film. Right now, I’m a little obsessed with The Touch, one of the not-so-famous ones. Already when I see the shots of the city of Visby at the start, I begin to cry. It moves me a lot, that film.
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