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My Voyage to Fårö (a.k.a. Bergman Island)

by J. Pomp
My Voyage to Fårö (a.k.a. Bergman Island) by J. Pomp
I just got back from an almost six-week trip around Scandinavia. Though I was participating in a summer school in Viking studies, I was really drawn to Scandinavia not for its famed warriors of the ninth through eleventh centuries but for its incredible film artists of the twentieth century—Carl Dreyer, Ingmar Bergman, Thomas Vinterberg, Lars von Trier (and many more I have yet to fully discover). The program I was on, as luck would have it, included over a week-long stay on Gotland, a historic island off the east coast of Sweden that is annexed at its northern tip by Fårö. As seemingly off-the-beaten-track as it is—extremely small, with… Read more

I just got back from an almost six-week trip around Scandinavia. Though I was participating in a summer school in Viking studies, I was really drawn to Scandinavia not for its famed warriors of the ninth through eleventh centuries but for its incredible film artists of the twentieth century—Carl Dreyer, Ingmar Bergman, Thomas Vinterberg, Lars von Trier (and many more I have yet to fully discover).

The program I was on, as luck would have it, included over a week-long stay on Gotland, a historic island off the east coast of Sweden that is annexed at its northern tip by Fårö. As seemingly off-the-beaten-track as it is—extremely small, with only 500 or so full-time inhabitants, and in the middle of the Baltic Sea, practically a short swim away from Latvia—the island of Fårö is quite possibly the most important place for a cinephile to visit in all of Scandinavia. It’s where Bergman lived almost uninterruptedly for the last four decades of his life. He also shot the films listed below there (except for Bergman Island, of course, which is about his life there).

Even though Bergman chose to settle down there because of how off-the-grid it is, Fårö is not all that hard to get to, at least nowadays. Every June, important filmmakers and other Bergman fanatics gather there for Bergman Week, a celebration of his work that includes screenings, lectures, etc. As nice as the week sounds (and I do hope to partake as soon as I get a chance), visiting Fårö on my own was an unbelievable experience. After taking the bus up from Visby (the main city on Gotland, which you can reach by plane from Stockholm) with a rented bike in tow, I rode all around the island, scouting out various Bergman spots.

Surely enough, one of the first things I saw after getting off the bus was one of the two barns that Bergman converted into private screening rooms. From what I understand, this red barn is one of the main venues for Bergman Week.

Though the island has presumably been built up more since both Bergman attained iconic status and Gotland became quite the coveted vacation spot, it’s still pretty barren. Here’s a representative snapshot of the landscape:

A work-in-progress, the Bergmancenter can be found across the street from Fårö Church, behind which Bergman was laid to rest.

As if a churchyard on a pretty rural island of 500 full-time inhabitants weren’t humble enough, Bergman asked to be buried in the far corner of the graveyard, with an extremely small headstone. It was a feat to find his name at all.

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