Vicky Krieps Plays Writer Seeking Inspiration In ‘Bergman Island’
European actress Vicky Krieps has two reasons to celebrate this October: The M. Night Shyamalan horror movie Old, in which she stars, is set to hit home video, possibly reaching a broader audience it didn’t quite snag earlier this summer when it was released in theaters, and the indie romantic drama Bergman Island, which is slated for both a theatrical and a digital release.
From her home in Berlin, the Luxembourg native, best known for her breakthrough role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, spoke via Zoom about her work, motherhood, Bergman and living life to its fullest, even when it’s exhausting.
In Bergman Island, she plays Chris, a young screenwriter, who with her older, more established filmmaker husband Tony (played by Tim Roth), go on a summer holiday to Sweden’s Faro Island, where the famed filmmaker Ingmar Bergman lived and filmed his most celebrated works. The couple settle into a farmhouse compound where Bergman shot one of his most famous works, the 1973 miniseries, Scenes From A Marriage. While Tony easily begins writing his next horror screenplay, Chris struggles for ideas, and grow a bit resentful while also missing their young daughter back home in America.
Though Chris attends the screening of Tony’s latest film at the local Bergman theater where he is hailed by visiting cinephiles, she feels the need to slip away and explore the island on her own. She bumps into Hampus (Hampus Nordenson), a student filmmaker who gives her an unofficial tour of the island, sparking Chris’ imagination, even though their friendship remains platonic. Inspired, Chris begins writing the outline of a screenplay involving a lead character named Amy (Mia Wasikowska), a slightly younger version of herself, who visits the island to attend a wedding but ends up rekindling a romance with an old flame. After a night of passion, Joseph (Anders Danielsen Lie) tells Amy he is committed to his girlfriend back home and then ghosts her, breaking Amy’s heart. Chris explains her script ideas to her husband but he is of little help in finding the elusive ending to her romantic drama. Like her character, Chris must forge ahead on a challenging but ultimately rewarding path toward finding her creative voice.
IFC Films’ Bergman Island arrives in select theaters Friday, Oct. 15 and will be available everywhere films are rented digitally Oct. 21, the same day Universal Pictures’ Old arrives on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD.
Angela Dawson: How would you sum up Bergman Island?
Vicky Krieps: It’s a journey—this movie.
Dawson: You shot it in 2018. Does it still seem fresh in your mind?
Krieps: We shot it over two years, so it really is burned into my memory. I remember the place very well and I have a very strong connection to it.
Dawson: Did you do another film and then come back?
Krieps: No, it wasn’t because of me. The movie was planned with different actors. My character was supposed to be played by Greta Gerwig and John Turturro was supposed to play Tony. They had been planning to do this movie for some years, but then Greta got an offer to direct a movie and they were strict about doing it within a certain timeframe. This was like three weeks before shooting (Bergman Island was to begin). Then Mia (Hansen-Love, the writer/director) asked me to do it. She’d thought of me from seeing Phantom Thread. I joined the movie very quickly. Then, John had to leave the project. So, I said yes to the movie not knowing if (my character) would have a husband. So, we shot one year without a husband and one year with one.
Dawson: Those were the movie-within-a-movie scenes, right?
Krieps: Yes, and (the scenes with) me and Hampus.
Dawson: Do you think part of the reason that Chris has writer’s block is because she’s away from her daughter or because of the pressure of being in a place where she’s expected to find inspiration?
Krieps: I think it’s both. She’s supposed to be inspired. She’s sitting next to her husband who has been a successful writer and director for many years, and there she is—this young woman who feels she has to write. That’s a big pressure. Also, you must be careful of the ghosts you call upon. Chris is the kind of woman who, even at home, doesn’t have a routine. It’s just who she is. But, being who she is, she has the difficulty of not having this kind of routine of how she writes and finds her inspiration.
What I find so nice about this film—and it speaks to me in so many ways—is that, essentially, every one of us has to find our own way and accept our own way. She’s never going to be the person who sits down on Day 1 and starts writing. She doesn’t have a method, but she’s determined to find it. She has to trust herself to find it—and she finds it in her imagination, daydreaming. It’s the opposite of being focused and concentrated. She accepts letting go and going into the realm of daydreams, and there she finds the answers to her story. I like the idea that we all have to find the answer of our lives by letting go and accepting our own way, which might be very different from what we have learned how we should behave as human beings.
Dawson: Did you see Chris as an avatar for Mia, your director?
Krieps: Yes, all of her movies are partly autobiographical. It’s not a true portrait, but they’re drawn from parts of her life and they’re very intimate every time. She told me that upfront and said if I had any questions, I should feel free to ask. But she also felt we were connected enough that I wouldn’t feel the need to, so I decided not to ask her any questions. It’s interesting for me because now, when we do the interviews, because I’m finding out all these answers that I didn’t know (during filming). So, I kind of knew but I tried not to think about it.
Dawson: There are humorous scenes where Bergman aficionados gather at events trying to impress each other with their knowledge of his work. How do you deal with these kinds of social situations in real life?
Krieps: I think I would just lean back and go, “Well, whatever. I don’t care.” I was never someone who was interested in competition. But what I like about Chris and her response to these situations, is that she takes a step back but she also feels comfortable showing her weakness and vulnerability. She can say, “I have this question but I don’t have the answer. I see this contradiction but I accept it.”
Dawson: Did you have much contact with the locals while shooting on Faro Island, and did they have some disdain for the “tourists” that come to pay homage to Bergman as they do in the movie?
Krieps: In the beginning, I thought it would be like that but then that really didn’t happen. I think we got kind of lucky. There was a documentary made there; but there aren’t too many movies (now) being made on the island. Also, Ingmar Bergman Jr., one of his sons, was there and was part of the project. We had a good star on us so everything was OK.
Dawson: You’ve been an actor for over a decade. Do you plan to write or direct? Is that on your bucket list?
Krieps: I don’t have a bucket list. But I have been writing since as long as I can remember; I have notebooks up to my roof. Maybe, someday I’ll do something with them. For me, writing is something I have to do. I have to get stuff out of myself. Before I started acting, I directed two plays—one was a children’s play—in Berlin, which is how I landed here. There was a point in my life, when I was 26, that I thought I was going to become a theater director. And then I got pregnant. This casting director found me—I don’t know how—and ever since then I’ve been (acting in) movies. So, as far as writing or directing, there’s something that may be there, but I’m never going to chase it.
Dawson: As the film notes, Bergman may have been a brilliant director but he was barely there for his nine children and five wives. He sacrificed his home life for his craft. You’ve managed to balance your work with being a parent, so what’s the secret? What do you recommend?
Krieps: I recommend to live life to the fullest, whatever you believe that is because you only live once and it would be really a shame if you lived it only 50 percent. Whatever people feel they want to do, they should go for it. I do feel having children is a wonderful experience. For me, it took my life to a whole different level but I also understand if you don’t have children as well.
When I had my first child, I felt like, when I was working, I had to run twice the distance. I found it quite hard having a baby. Sometimes, I was so tired I couldn’t stand up. We were working, doing long hours, and then we had about five hours before the next day of shooting. While everyone else was sleeping, I was breastfeeding and I couldn’t sleep. I remember being so exhausted because the time you spend on your child is never counted into (the equation). Like I said, I’d be sad if I lived my life only 50 percent but I cannot lie and say it isn’t very hard.
Dawson: You’ve got a drama coming up called The Wall, in which you play a border patrol agent caught up in an accidental shooting, right?
Krieps: Yeah. It’s the scariest thing I’ve done so far. But I’m definitely going for it. We’re filming on the Mexican-American border.
Dawson: You also have the Shyamalan horror movie, Old, coming to home video. That was scary on a different level, wasn’t it?
Krieps:What I love about that movie is the idea of being OK with getting old because we all get old anyway, so why are we running all the time when what you look forward to is sitting on the beach, watching the sunset? We’re going to die anyway, so we might as well just enjoy the people around us. That’s what I really liked about this movie. yes, it’s a scary movie and it’s commercial but, to me, it has a beautiful message.