The island’s ‘personality’ suits Ingmar Bergman perfectly
Just as the most avid Leonard Cohen fans love to travel to the Greek island of Hydra to see where the Canadian had a home (see our Journey After the Pandemic # 1), admirers of Ingmar Bergman’s films may do. a pilgrimage similar to his. beloved Fårö, the Swedish island where he lived and worked for over 40 years, photographing some of his great works.
Fårö is not easy to reach. Fly to Stockholm then take a 40-minute flight or three-hour ferry to Visby, Gotland. In Visby, rent a car and drive to Fårösund, at the northern tip of Gotland, which takes around an hour. There you can board the free ferry that runs through Fårö, where there is plenty of accommodation although it gets crowded in the summer.
A good place to start is Bergman Center, dedicated to the world famous and legendary Swedish director and writer, offering seminars, films, performances, creative workshop, café and tours like the “Bergman Safari”. Guides will take you in the author’s footsteps by visiting the filming locations.
Every year, during week 26, the center hosts Bergman Week, which will take place this year from June 29 to July 3. This will be the 17th consecutive year that the celebration will take place in Fårö. The theme for the 2021 edition is “Remaking Bergman,” when guests, panelists and speakers discuss the wave of remakes of his films that is expected to follow in the wake of HBO’s long-awaited “Scenes from a Marriage” series, the first regular remake of an Ingmar Bergman movie.
The Swede wrote and directed this 1973 Swedish television in six parts mini series about a falling apart marriage, featuring Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson. The series was then condensed into a three-hour film adapted for theaters in 1974 for its US release. Bergman based the saga on his own experiences, including his long-standing relationship with muse and partner Ullmann, whom he married from 1965 to 1970. HBO remake directed by Israeli Hagai Levi is due out this year. Will fans linked to Fårö approve of this American adaptation?
The Bergman Center informs that all necessary precautions will be taken for the week of celebration given the COVID-19 pandemic and that the current restrictions will be followed. Parts of the program will take place outdoors in the vicinity of the island or in custom tents next to the center. A limited part of the program will be digitally accessible.
The center features a permanent exhibition, “The Film Landscape of Ingmar Bergman,” which takes visitors on what is described as “a journey through Bergman’s rare and special bond with Fårö, spanning over 40 years of his life. and his work on the island ”.
It was in the mid-1960s that Bergman first arrived in Fårö, in the Baltic Sea south of Stockholm. Only 113 square kilometers, it appears to have broken away from the northern tip of the adjacent and larger island of Gotland and is about to float out to sea. Bergman was looking for places for his dark existentialist ‘Through a Glass Darkly ”.
He immediately loved the place and felt he had found his real home. The craggy and stormy vibe fits perfectly with his vision, which often deals with death, disease, faith, betrayal, gloom and madness. Fårö has strange seasons, gray light in the day and northern light in the middle of the night, and barren winters without colors. It is isolated and at that time non-Swedish citizens were banned because it had a top-secret Swedish military base.
The land is flat and green. It’s windswept, rough and elemental, rocky along the western edge, soft and sandy on the eastern coast, with black and white cows grazing in lush meadows along the Baltic Sea. There are dense, weather-beaten forests of gnarled, curving pines. The famous Langhammars shore has a rocky beach punctuated by massive stone monoliths dating from several ice ages. The mystical beach served as the backdrop to the story of a young woman’s descent into schizophrenia in “Through a Glass Darkly”.
In a revelation, Bergman told his cinematographer, Sven Nykvist, that he would soon be buying a house on the island and making more films there. One day he would move to Fårö for good. And he wanted to die there.
The promises have been kept. While filming “CharacterHe found an area of land to buy and build a house. He stayed there as often as his functions in Stockholm would allow him until 2003, when he sold his apartment in the capital and moved permanently to Fårö.
Including ‘Through a Glass Darkly’, he shot six of his austere and heartbreaking films on the island, including ‘Persona’, ‘Anna’s Passion’ and ‘Shame’, as well as the miniseries’ Scenes from a Marriage ”and two documentaries on the island itself,“ Fårö Document ”and“ Fårö Document 1979 ”.
The island has almost become a character in his world famous films. The barren, stony landscape framed by the Baltic Sea has often been seen as a metaphor for certain inner emotional states of its characters.
Visitors can find Bergman’s house and, a few miles away, the old barn turned into a private screening room, equipped for 16mm and 35mm projections and with a projectionist on call. He went there in his red truck almost every day for two films, at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. The island does not have a cinema.
Three of his groundbreaking films won the Oscar for best foreign language film: “The Virgin Spring”, “Through a Glass Darkly” and “Fanny and Alexander”. When devotees traveled to the island to find Bergman, the locals protected his privacy by claiming they didn’t know where he lived. He had a sign on his door, “Beware of the Killer Dog,” but he only had one small dog.
Living alone in the end, after five marriages, he died in his Fårö bed in July 2007 at age 89 and is buried in the cemetery of the only church on the island. Islanders kept his funeral secret from the press until the grave was dug the night before. Bergman, often furiously skeptical of God, is apparently worshiped and is buried in a private location in Fårö Church, far from other graves. His resting place is shared with his last wife, the non-actress Ingrid Bergman. She had died before him, but her body was exhumed and brought there.
The director envisioned his house after his death as an extension and expansion of his own artistic endeavors, a meeting place for people who work with music, film, photography, theater and literature. The Bergman Estate in Fårö consists of four houses and a cinema and invites artists, academics, non-fiction writers and journalists from all over the world to come and work. The next regular call for applications is scheduled for October 1, 2021.
Bergman’s house has been preserved in its original condition down to the notes on his bedside table. A Norwegian millionaire bought Bergman’s furniture and possessions at an auction in Stockholm and returned them to Fårö as a donation. The environment aims to nurture contemplative and creative work – in the same way that it inspired Bergman’s own artistic endeavors for 40 years.
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