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Cinema Paradise

Faro Island in Sweden offers a historical pilgrimage to Bergman fans

travel Updated: Sep 04, 2010 11:12 IST

Ingmar Bergman with five wives, nine children and many affairs with cinema, theatre and literature, had only one constant in his life Faro Island. He first came here in 1960, scouting for locations for his 1961 Oscar-winning film, Through A Glass Darkly. He fell in love with it and stayed loyal to it till his death in 2007. Today, it offers the ultimate cinematic pilgrimage. 

Rural finesse
Situated in the south east of Sweden, Faro Island is like a severed head to Sweden's largest island, Gotland. And with a permanent population of 532, farm lands and ancient windmills, Faro is as rural as Sweden gets. Yet what attracted Bergman was much more. He conceptualised the universe as a lonely, cruel place. And Faro with its bare population (no bank, post office or police; even the only school closed recently), white sand beaches on one side and coral, rocky beaches on another, a lone lighthouse, and cold, brutal winters provided the perfect nesting ground for his creativity. Here, at a south-eastern spot where the forest meets a rocky beach (discovered by his legendary cinematographer Sven Nykvist), he built a home and moved in 1967.

Not only did he write his greatest plays and films here, he also shot many of them on the island. Besides Through A Glass Darkly, Persona, Hour Of The Wolf and Shame were some of the other films that were shot here. Another cinema great Andrei Tarkovsky shot his last film, The Sacrifice, here.

Thanks to a number of people and institutions, the place has escaped the ravages of time. Yet, for a while after Bergman's death, it seemed otherwise.

A haven for artistes
In his will, Bergman wished for the entire estate, including his house, a windmill and a theatre, to be auctioned. In an interview to a Norwegian paper, Linn Ullmann (daughter of Bergman and Liv Ullmann) had expressed her desire to fulfill her father's wish by turning his house into a haven for artistes.

In truly miraculous fashion, a Norwegian archaeologist and inventor, Hans Gude Gudesen, secretly bought almost all of Bergman's property at the auction in October 2009 and handed it over to Linn. "In Norwegian, 'gude' is god, and he really acted like god," Liv Ullmann told me. After renovation, the door to the Bergman estate was opened to outsiders this year.

Today, Linn invites artists from across the world to visit this place and and make art.

But for Swedish cinema, Bergman and his island are an inspiration for greater things. "We aren't just here to polish his monuments," says Pia Lundberg of the Swedish Film Institute. Fans visit the island every year to attend the Bergman Week in June, are exposed to a variety of modern Swedish films.

Yet, their first priority, like Bergman's, remains the island. On a choreographed tour you are taken to the shore where Bibi Andersson followed Liv Ullmann in Persona, and shown the house that was burnt at the end of Shame. For any fan of Bergman's cinema, a trip to FaroIsland is a walk down cinematic history.

First Published: Sep 04, 2010 11:12 IST