Mia Wasikowska channels female directors on ‘Bergman Island’

‘Bergman Island’ stars Mia Wasikowska. — Picture courtesy of Les Films du Losange
‘Bergman Island’ stars Mia Wasikowska. — Picture courtesy of Les Films du Losange

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LOS ANGELES, Oct 24 — Mia Wasikowska burst into Hollywood with Alice in Wonderland in 2010, when Forbes named her the world’s top-grossing actress — but like many women, she has found it more challenging to get behind the camera, a decade later.

Now 31 and living back in her native Australia, she is “having a really hard time” getting her dream projects as a director financed. 

“I would love to branch into more directing — I would love that — but it’s hard, and I feel like it’s a different experience, being a woman,” Wasikowska told AFP.

“In acting, you feel it in a different way, and of course with #MeToo... that’s a whole thing.

“But it’s felt interesting to be trying to get my film done, which feels like it’s made from a very female perspective. The response is different to what I’ve seen for my male friends.”

The challenges facing female directors are central to acclaimed indie drama Bergman Island, starring Wasikowska, released on streaming Friday. It follows two married filmmakers who travel to the former home of Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman.

While a nonchalant Tony (Tim Roth) hosts panels with his adoring fans, his wife Chris (Vicky Krieps) struggles to write a new movie on remote, beautiful Faro island.

Looming over her efforts is the specter of Bergman, who created some of cinema’s most revered works, such as Persona and The Seventh Seal.

“It is a female artist trying to find their voice and feeling this weight of the shadows of great artists around her... I can identify with that conflict or frustration or self-doubt,” said Wasikowska of the film.

According to Wasikowska, the path to directing for women is “systemically” different, in part because there is “something very innately tentative about a female sense of creativity.”

“We really need to bring a lot more understanding and kindness to our own creative process,” she said.

“Because it’s different to the way that maybe men create, or the way that maybe you’re responded to as either a man or a woman, by everything around you.”

‘Nice’ guy?

There have been nascent signs that Hollywood is starting to look beyond an entrenched set of mainly white, male directors.

In April, Chloe Zhao became the second woman — and the first of colour — to win the best director Oscar, for Nomadland.

But Bergman Island raises questions about the aura that still pervades canonical male filmmakers such as Bergman, and which often ignores the advantages that they enjoyed.

For instance, the film discusses how the auteur fathered nine children with six different women — but played little or no role in raising them.

“I’m not a mother yet — I really hope to be,” said Wasikowska. “I don’t want that to feel limiting or whatever, I just want to be a good mom.”

But men pursuing film careers “haven’t probably felt as much of the weight of parenting as women have,” she said.

Bergman Island also asks “whether you can separate the man from his art,” said Wasikowska.

“Because when you look at the facts, it sounds like he was not a particularly — I don’t know — ‘nice’ guy? That’s a plain way of putting it!” she laughed.

“And then there’s the Woody Allen conversations,” added Wasikowska, referring to the Annie Hall director who is still feted by many despite sexual abuse allegations against him. 

‘Grappling’

In Bergman Island, Wasikowska plays Amy, the star of a film-within-a-film eventually created by Chris.

Amy rekindles a doomed affair with a long-lost lover. Bergman Island director Mia Hansen-Love explored a similar, semi-autobiographical storyline in one of her earlier films.

“I’m so proud of her for really shamelessly exploring things that are very present in her own life, and that she’s grappling with herself,” said Wasikowska.

While first breaking through in Hollywood blockbusters, Wasikowska preferred to keep her personal life detached from her work.

She and former co-star Jesse Eisenberg famously never answered questions about their romantic relationship, which lasted from 2013 to 2015.

“I’ve probably acknowledged a little bit more as I grow up how much the work that you’re a part of, the people that you work with, the films and the themes — it really does impact you,” she said. — AFP

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