Wild Strawberries (1957)



Sweden; Ingmar Bergman

All Audiences


When he is summoned to a nearby city to be awarded an honorary doctorate for a lifelong contribution to medicine, lonesome elderly academic Isak Borg (Victor Sjöström) makes the journey accompanied by his daughter-in-law Marianne (Ingrid Thulin). His journey will be interrupted by fortuitous meetings on the road: a trio of gleeful hitch-hikers and an embittered couple, reminding the old man of his own hopeless love for an irrepressible fair-haired girl and his subsequent tragic and soulless marriage. Somehow shocked by Marianne’s confessions concerning his son, Isak is forced by a series of surrealist, symbolic or macabre dreams to reassess his entire life and how he became the emotionally arid man he now is.

Bergman delivers a personal and profound dissection of old age and remorse, but he never gives us the key to his character’s inner life. Instead, with a rich, sweeping sense of poetry and filmic beauty, he paints Isak as a landscape, gradually unpeeling and blossoming, as his inner sun rises, shedding light on patches of wilderness hitherto hidden by darkness. Wild Strawberries is at heart about an emotional healing. Bergman’s serene, calm pace and elegant camerawork, as well as the cinematography’s deep monochrome shades, eloquently accompany Isak and the viewer along this spiritual trip down memory lane.

Often, the film approaches a state of near emotional panic, but Bergman’s eye is consistently placid and calm, almost distant. While filming this personal maelstrom, a more heightened, urgent sense of humans’ inner realities might have seemed wholly justified, but the great Swedish master is probably among the few that can syringe such lively energy and genuine buoyancy in such an introvert, severe work of art. And if you can feel life pumping through the characters’ veins, it also largely owes to the searing, humane central performances, both from Sjöström and Thulin. On screen, they are an unlikely couple, separated by more than 40 years and distinct ideals: she wants to create life and flee the emotional sterility of a husband who’s already, emotionally, one foot in the grave; he is drifting in an emotional and affective limbo, prisoner of his past mistakes. None of them are actually seeking redemption, but they are both going to find it at the end of their shared journey.

With simplicity and a heartfelt, humane generosity, Bergman charts the belated affective blossoming of a frozen soul. The end is one of Bergman’s most serene, optimistic conclusions, and so is the film as a whole: sincere, articulate, visually arresting and at its best sublimely uplifting.  


Wild strawberries 2                Wild4

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