BERGMAN'S FÅRÖ

 

POSTCARD

 

Text Rosita Evarista / Photo Nicoline Olsen/Rosita Evarista

VISITING A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION

 

Off Sweden's east coast lies an island known as Fårö. Though it is small, it has a long history and a unique nature that has fascinated artists and other esthetes through time. Join us as we discover the island through director Ingmar Bergman's lens.

 
 
 
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A MEETING

The year is 1960. The Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman is seeking out a location for his new feature "Through a glass darkly". The past years Bergman's career has escalated significantly, and he is now riding on a wave of success. He is not only famous for his theatrical work in Sweden, but the global film industry has acknowledged his talent. Fascinated by the harsh landscape, Bergman initially planned to shoot the movie on The Orkney Islands. Of course, his production company demanded a cheaper option than shooting in Scotland and suggested a Swedish island with similar scenery: Fårö. Bergman, known for his determination, was very stubborn towards the proposal. Reluctantly, the director travelled to Gotland's neighbouring island on an April day in 1960 unaware of how it would change his life forever.

 
 
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THE TRIP

The year is 2019. It is late July, and we reach the small island that is Fårö by crossing a strait aboard a yellow ferry. The sun is shining, but a cold wind is creeping over the flat roads. One is almost disappointed that the weather isn't cloudy as in one of Bergman's six movies shot on Fårö during the 40 years he lived there. We are headed over to Bergmancenter to meet our guide. Excitement, as well as hesitation, is present in the car. While some of us have dreamt about this moment for years, it also feels like we are somehow intruding Bergman.

As we arrive at the building that was once an old school, we still have some time to kill before we explore the land in Bergman's footsteps. Right next to the center is Fårö Museum, and we decide to enter, to catch up on the island's history. The museum is tiny but informative and takes us from the stone age, through the Danish occupation to today's society. In 2019, Fårö's population is close to 500. The winters are long and quiet, unlike the summers where the island is a popular summer resort for Stockholmers and alike. Even the former Prime Minister Olof Palme used to be a regular summer resident here.

Finally, it's 12 o'clock, and we step into our car, accompanied by our guide. First stop is Fårö Kyrka where Bergman’s funeral was held on an august day in 2007. The church dates from the 14th century, and the interior decor is marked by it being Lutheran. Our hesitation towards prying into Bergman's life on Fårö fades as our guide explains that he was an exhibitionist who loved attention.

Ingmar Bergman and his wife Ingrid's grave is located in the corner of the graveyard. Bergman spent a lot of time picking out the spot, as he knew it would be well visited and didn't want the other graves disturbed. His coffin was also chosen with great care. It was specially built, so Bergman's head is slightly tilted, and he can view the ocean from his resting place.

 
 

The harsh stone on the beach contrasts the green plants that appear from the bare ground, and thereby the beach echoes Karin's (one of the main characters in "Through a glass darkly") schizophrenic behaviour.

 
One Fårö-classic is these fences made out of piles of stone. Originally they were made to keep in the sheep but now they also serve as protection against the wind.

One Fårö-classic is these fences made out of piles of stone. Originally they were made to keep in the sheep but now they also serve as protection against the wind.

THE BEACH

Next stop is the beach where most of "Through a glass darkly" was shot. One might recall the opening scene where four shadows emerge from the water. Well, this is the spot. The tiny tree which can be seen in the movie is still there. We fangirl for a moment and take a bunch of pictures to capture the site.

About 50 meters further down the beach is the location where one Bergman's most famous films "Persona" was shot. In the movie, Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson can be seen climbing around on the rocks. Due to weather and time, nature has changed a lot there, and the spot is hard to recognise, our guide explains.

After visiting the beach, we jump back into the car and drive deep into the forest to find Bergman's most beloved house "Hammars". In accordance with Bergman's wish, the house isn't open to the public, but his estate (including three other houses on Fårö) is used by artists and scholars from around the world when they come there to work.

"Hammars" can be viewed among the trees from the driveway by curious bypassers.

 

THE END

The two hours are nearly spent and for our last stop, we head over to one of Bergman's other houses called "Dämba". Bergman used the house for some shots in the tv-series "Scenes from a marriage" from 1974. Next to "Dämba" is a (very) small cinema, a mill and a house containing old Bergman-films all owned by the man himself back in the day. The many buildings all emphasise the influence that Bergman had on the island. He lived, loved, worked and died there at the age of 89. Along the way, he truly became a Fårögubbe.

After the Bergmansafari we drive around to see what else Fårö has to offer.

On Fårö there is an old tradition of making roofs out of "cladium mariscus" a grass that grows along the sea. (left)

Both Fårö and Gotland are known for the limestone formations at the seaside referred to as "rauks". (right)

 
Egentligen vet jag inte vad som hände. Om man vill vara högtidlig kan man säga att jag hade funnit mitt landskap, mitt verkliga hem. Vill man vara lustig kan man tala om kärlek vid första ögonkastet. // Actually, I don’t know what happened. If you want to be solemn you can say that I had found my landscape, my real home. If you want to be funny you can talk about love at first sight.
— Ingmar Bergman on his encounter with Fårö in "Laterna Magica" (1987)
 

In addition to Fårö's 500 human residents, there are hundreds of sheep wandering around the island. Small fishermen's houses like these can be found along the coastline.

 

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