No man is an island, it is said, but some willingly sequester themselves on one to maintain solitude and inspiration. Faro, a remote spot off the Swedish mainland whose austere terrain harbors a dwindling three-digit population, is no Maui. But for director Ingmar Bergman, this isolated jut of land was apparently a little piece of Paradise. Bergman Island a documentary shot in 2003 for Swedish television, is a telling example of how the cult of personality can exert its own fascination, for it?s the influential filmmaker, rather than his films, that provides the focal point. With documentarian Marie Nyrerod at his side, Bergman shows us around his home, then ventures out (as it were) to locales that have personal significance to him. Yet the physical landmarks are less important than the memories and reveries that Nyrerod elicits in gently probing talks with the candid Bergman. Here Bergman reveals his conflicted feelings about his parents; his regrets about a domestic and love life that found room for five marriages and nine children; his fears — literally outlined in a short list he?s provided — and his abiding love for his last wife, Ingrid, who died in 1995. We learn much about the inner life of the man, but his enduring accomplishments in film and theater take second stage. A viewer has to approach this absorbing documentary with a previous knowledge of, and affection for, Bergman?s oeuvre, for Nyrerod is primarily interested in investigating how an artist’s personality affects his work, rather than in presenting a survey of the work itself. That?s conveniently taken care of on the DVD?s handy special feature, “Bergman 101,” a career overview by film historian Peter Cowie.
About the Author
Steve Futterman writes the "Jazz and Standards" listings for The New Yorker.