“There aren’t many films about female creativity”, Mia Hansen-Løve says, “and even fewer that consider the art and craft of cinema from a woman’s point of view.”1 We can however think of at least three films over the last year that have been interested in women admiring others (and two very specifically on films about filmmaking), and more specifically in respect to the august, the well-known and the half-forgotten, including one by Hansen-Løve. In Bergman Island (Mia Hansen-Løve, 2021), the director the young woman filmmaker finds herself shadowed by is Ingmar Bergman, when she and her filmmaker husband are holidaying on the Swedish director’s retreat, the island where many of his films were shot. Hommage (Shin Su-won, 2022) is also about a filmmaker, a married woman whose personal and creative films don’t make much money, and to raise some cash she takes on a commission: to restore a film from the early ‘60s that will receive a new, celebratory screening. In Anaïs in Love (Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet, 2021), neither the titular character nor the figure she admires are filmmakers: Anaïs doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life and becomes fascinated with a writer after already sleeping with her husband, a publisher. 

The three films ask what it means to admire, respect or be infatuated by a creative person from the past or from the present. In Hansen-Løve’s Bergman film, the resonances are multiple. The film was shot on Fårö itself, inevitably uses some of Bergman’s locations and even his study, while Hansen-Løve was for years in a relationship with Olivier Assayas, and started out as an actor in his work, just as some of Bergman’s muses initially worked as actors for Bergman before becoming themselves filmmakers, including Liv Ullmann and Ingrid Thulin — even if there is no sense here that the central character has appeared in any of her husband’s films. Yet there is a feeling that here is an older man, the experienced filmmaker Tony (Tim Roth), who the younger Chris (Vicky Krieps) looks up to as the pair of them spend time on Farö where Tony is attending a retrospective of his work. But just as she looks up to Tony there is a dead master looking down on her. At one moment Chris wonders if she can write in the house where they are staying — and where Bergman’s Scenes From a Marriage (1974) was shot. Much of what we will call the exterior film is haunted by Bergman and examines the ambivalent relationship Chris has with Tony — exemplified in the Bergman tour she passes on last minute, as she leaves her husband to get on the tour bus without her, and instead hangs out with a young man who gives her a more personal tour of the island. But it is the interior film that is more consistent with Hansen-Løve’s preoccupations. Playing like a variation on Goodbye, First Love (2011), but with hints of other Hansen-Løve films, The Father of My Children (2009), Eden and Things to Come, the interior drama is in the process of its creation on the island, with Chris telling Tony what she is working on, though the story gets interrupted by various professional distractions on Tony’s part. This film in the making on the page becomes a film in the making on the screen, with a wedding on the island that unites once again two lovers for whom the chemistry hasn’t gone away even though their lives have taken different directions. 

Bergman Island

Yet Amy (Mia Wasikowska), while married with a child, can’t deny that this is a man she is still besotted by and the film is never more Bergmanesque, and yet far away from Bergman, when showing the anxiety on Amy’s face as she yearns for this man, Joseph (Anders Danielson Lie), whom she knows she can never quite possess. If Bergman’s work was so centrally and famously focused on the face, and suggested anxieties no immediate situation could explain, Hansen-Løve offers anxiety high and low. With husband Tony and in the presence of Bergman’s absence, Chris is low-key anxious, fretting over her abilities and capabilities. In the interior film, Amy is in a state of high anxiety, constantly wondering where Joseph is, even when he is in the same room. The film becomes centrally about Amy’s face but Chris, and by extension Hansen-Løve, escapes the tyranny of Bergman’s influence by showing us a face that belongs to the immediacy of affect and the clarity of its object: Amy knows exactly what she feels and knows who is responsible for that feeling. She is still in love with Joseph and her expression constantly reflects that preoccupation. This could make the work weak next to Bergman’s but that isn’t the point: it shows Chris, and of course Hansen-Løve, true to their instincts, no matter if Bergman’s dominating personality can prove encompassing even, or perhaps especially, after his death. Yet there is Hansen-Løve, Chris and Amy, all on Bergman’s island and finding their own feelings that needn’t resemble the ones Bergman’s work so deeply excavates. It is a certain type of achievement: to enter the Swedish director’s forcefield and escape with one’s vision intact. 

What we have is a film about a less experienced, female filmmaker going to Farö with her older, director husband and manages despite the retrospective that is given for Tony’s work, and despite the significance the island has for Bergman’s, to fashion a film of her own that also of course reflects Hansen-Løve’s ongoing fascination with love as an affect very difficult to banish. If Chris is true to her instincts by finding a way to fashion a film that incorporates the complexity of her feelings, Hansen-Løve insists on pursuing her ongoing concerns.


In Shin Su-won’s Hommage, the Korean director whose work is being restored would have been a contemporary of Bergman’s, with Hong Eun-won making A Woman Judge (Yeopansa) in 1962 around the same time Bergman was first discovering Fårö when searching for an island on which to shoot Through a Glass Darkly (1961). But while Bergman’s work is safely part of the canon, and the island retreat vital to the mythology, in Hommage, investigating the director’s work is a process indeed. Hong Eun-won, Ji-wan (Lee Jung-eun) finds, is all but forgotten, a female filmmaker who made only three films, and where A Woman Judge is the only one available. If it isn’t, like Bergman Island, a film within a film, it has its own mise en abyme. It is about Shin’s attempt as a female director in her 40s to make a film about a woman around the same age who struggles to make films, searching out a director from the past who would have had many of the same difficulties. As Shin says, in a Tatler interview, “when I started my film career in my mid-30s, people said to me, ‘how on earth would a middle-aged woman like you make movies? ‘You should just look after your family’ or ‘women can’t be a movie director if they are over 40 years old.’ Even after making films, I still had to fight against gender discrimination.”2

It is as though the problem hasn’t gone away but the films from the past have; that Ji-wan’s purpose is to at least restore one of Hong Eun-won’s works to show that no matter the difficulties and prejudices in the past, women were making films, and Hommage is a quietly angry account of these difficulties continuing into the present. It might be ironic that Ji-wan only takes on the project because she needs the money, but she finds in this earlier filmmaker someone who would have fought difficulties like her own, if not quite for the same reasons. Part of Ji-wan’s problem is an unsympathetic husband, and a truculent teen son who would rather see a blockbuster than his mum’s work. But then in that he is far from alone. The type of films Ji-wan directs are the type that are small-scale and personal and unlikely to make much money. Even her producer has given up, aware as they sit watching Ji-wan’s latest film in an almost empty theatre, that she needs to get another job. 

The main thrust of the film lies in trying to find some missing footage, and Ji-wan interviews various members of cast and crew who worked on the ‘60s film or at least screened it, and those she speaks to include a projectionist and the film’s editor. The projectionist lives amidst chaos and seems to have turned the booth into his home, while the cinema makes a bit of money showing exploitation films. The editor is arthritic and struggles to move around her elegant and hospitable dwelling, a woman who now rarely goes out and devotes much of her time to listening to music: she has a large record collection. It is a moment consistent with the nostalgia that permeates the film, an antediluvian respect for a world that has passed by and that Ji-wan feels may take her with it. 


Yet we may note that Lee Jung-eun played the housekeeper in one of the most successful of Korean exports in recent years, Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019), making over $260,000 million globally on a budget of $15m. This may be no match for the sums made by the most successful film in Korea last year, Spider-Man: No Way Home (Jon Watts, 2021), which made more than $1.8bn internationally, and the sort of film Ji-wan’s son watches, but it does suggest not all is lost even if Ji-wan’s career might still struggle. Shin’s film, warm and small, is good on the attempt to both resurrect and continue a film culture that contains within it a sense of history that is worth preserving, both in the film that Ji-wan restores, and in Hommage’s exploration of a filmic past while dealing with the difficulties in the filmic present. “Everyone is easily forgotten and abandoned in a world where all values are evaluated with just numbers and statistics, and divided into either ‘success’ or ‘failure’, Shin says in Tatler. “Ji-wan goes on an expedition in search of forgotten beings. Like the shadows, these characters in the movie live forgotten or shabby lives, but they all once shone.”3

In Anaïs in Love, the title character’s life is the most chaotic of the three women here, and she is also the youngest, most impetuous and perhaps even potentially callous, cruel and oblivious. Her mother is seriously ill and possibly dying, Anais’s (Anaïs Demoustier) pregnancy she keeps from her partner and she thinks nothing of moving in on a lover’s wife when she reckons the woman Emilie Ducretis (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) is much more interesting than the man, Daniel (Denis Podalydes). She also sublets her Paris apartment even though she can’t afford even to pay her own rent, and lets it to a couple of people whose grasp of French is non-existent, whose English is sketchy, and who maybe don’t quite comprehend they shouldn’t be using a cooker that is in need of repair. Of course, the flat almost burns down in Anaïs’s absence. But it is only really the mother’s illness that suggests Anaïs’s self-absorption goes too far, and there is a moment where she uses it as an excuse to spend more time with Emilie. Anaïs is supposed to be helping at a conference but says when her boss phones that she cannot make it because of her mother, while in fact she is with Emilie at a writer’s retreat. 

Anaïs in Love

How far one feels the film works probably depends on how willing one is to suspend an ethical disbelief, to accept that Anaïs is so full of energy and enthusiasm that these are qualities to offset her wilful disregard for others. That the character is 30 may come as a surprise (Demouster is 34) but that won’t only rest on the astonishing immaturity she shows, but also on a vitality that makes us wonder if she might be right in refusing to grow up. However, the film proposes that maybe she needs to learn a little from Emilie (with Bruni-Tedeschi 57), who has exuberance, enthusiasm and a joy for living that needn’t demand moral abdication in the process. If Anaïs is in love she is in love with more a state than a person, in feeling free to do as she pleases — no matter if her relationships create messy entanglements, her joy of cycling means it isn’t easy to get her bike in a lift, and when taking the stairs she does so with such reckless gusto that her knee gives out. 

In different ways the films could be seen as sentimental educations, of people acknowledging in others, whether the monumentally famous and dead Bergman, the too-little-known and also dead, Hong, or the very much living and considerate Emilie, how we can esteem others in the process of better understanding ourselves. In Anaïs in Love, infatuation finally may help — that Anaïs adoring a woman who tells her that she might need to think more of others, means that she can respect everyone without admiring one person only and the rest of the time doing what she likes. Ji-wan, looking for a bit of credence from her family, finds instead chiefly credence through a profession that has a long history of which she is a part. In Bergman Island, Chris is better paying as little attention to Bergman as she can manage while pursuing her own vision. In all three films however, we can say with some confidence that they attend to a female creativity too often ignored.


  1. “Løve Island”, Beatrice Loayza, Sight and Sound June 2022
  2. Shin Su-won Interview, by Jianne Soriano, Tatler, November 30, 2021
  3. ibid

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