If Bergman Island, Marie Nyreröd’s documentary on the great Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, feels somewhat haphazard and incomplete, it is for a good reason. This is a significant condensation of a three-part television work entitled Bergman Complete, which dedicates two separate episodes to Bergman’s theater and film work, and another to his beloved home island of Fårö. This version of Nyreröd’s efforts tends to focus on the more familiar touchstones of Bergman’s career (Wild Strawberries, The Seventh Seal), though it does go significantly in-depth on the guilt he feels over his many failures as a husband and a father. Bergman has always been a loquacious and intriguing camera subject (there’s a wonderful, childlike purity in the way he threads up an old firelight projector), though I can’t help but feel something important has been lost in the work’s abridgement for stateside release. Nyreröd’s original cut is currently available for purchase on Region 2 DVD. I’d also recommend interested viewers check out “The Making of Saraband” documentary on the DVD of Bergman’s reported last film, which touches on some of the same themes as Bergman Island and also shows the master at work.
The sounds and sights of Bergman's island home are transfixing. That said, edge enhancement and combing effects abound throughout this obviously inexpensively shot video documentary, and dialogue, while clear, is a bit on the tinny side.
Aside from an essay by director Marie Nyreröd, the only feature on this DVD is a very-watchable video filmography by Peter Cowie aptly titled "Bergman 101."
Bergman Island isn't a keeper, but it reveals that Bergman wasn't, at least in real life, a merchant of doom and gloom.