Posted by martinteller on July 17, 2014
Ingmar Bergman’s hour-long made-for-TV documentary about Fårö, the small island he lived on and where he shot many of his films. He interviews several local inhabitants, including a farmer, a fisherman, a postal employee, a school bus driver, a clergyman, a young couple and several of the children. Fårö has a population of only about 900, and relies heavily on the port of Fårösund, across the strait on island of Gotland. Many voice their dissatisfaction with life on Fårö, including poor roads and a reliance on a monopolistic slaughterhouse. Most of the children envision themselves leaving the island because of the boredom, harsh winters and lack of employment opportunities.
This has been on my watchlist for a long time, having previously seen the 1979 follow-up. Now that subtitles have finally surfaced for the 1969 film, I am equally disappointed. As Bergman’s first documentary, there’s a certain curiosity factor, but the actual footage isn’t that gripping. He breaks up the interviews with location shots, including an uncomfortably long segment of sheep giving birth (an earlier segment depicting a sheep being skinned and gutted is uncomfortable in its own way). Some of the comments are interesting, but Bergman often lets his subjects ramble on with some inconsequential anecdote. The issues facing a small, isolated community ought to be more compelling than this, but not enough of the interviews are especially enlightening. It’s not that it’s boring material, but it’s not exactly a riveting example of local political documentary either.
As for the filmmaking, the only interesting thing about it is that some of the footage is black and white, and some is color. There doesn’t appear to be any particular motivation for this (generally, the interviews are monochrome and the location footage is color, but not always) so I imagine it’s largely a case of whatever film stock or cameras were on hand at the time. Rating: Fair (62)