Monday, 3 April 2017

Wild Strawberries

Year of Release:  1957
Director:  Ingmar Bergman
Screenplay:  Ingmar Bergman
Starring:  Victor Sjostrom, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Bjornstrand
Running Time:  91 minutes 
Genre:  Drama

Professor Isak Borg (Sjostrom) is 78 years old and generally disliked by those closest to him, due to his grouchy, stubborn, arrogant nature.  He sets out on a long car journey from his home in Stockholm to his old university in Lund, where he is due to receive an honorary doctorate in recognition of his distinguished fifty year career in medicine.  He is accompanied on his journey by his daughter in law, Marianne (Thulin), who has a troubled relationship with her husband, Evald (Bjornstrand), who is very similar in temperament to his father.  During the course of the long journey (today it would take about six hours to drive between Stockholm and Lund, and it would probably have taken even longer back in 1957), they make various stops and encounter various other travelers.  Through his nostalgic reminiscences of his childhood summers, the encounters with others and strange dreams and nightmares, Borg starts to look at himself and his life.

This is possibly Ingmar Bergman's finest achievement.  It's a portrait of one man's life, and a look at ageing, regret, nostalgia and possibility.  Over the course of a single day, Isak Borg sees where he came from, what shaped him, who he now is and where he is going.  The dreams of his childhood are suffused with the silver glow of nostalgia, even while they deal with the loss of first love, contrasting with the more realistic scenes of the drive, during which he and Marianne encounter three young friends, an argumentative middle-aged married couple, and Borg's aged mother.  There are also surreal dream sequences where Borg is haunted by old age, the fact that his life is running out, and what his legacy will be.  People who see Bergman as the king of existential gloom might be surprised by the lightness of this film.  It doesn't ignore Bergman's predominant theme of the search for meaning in life, and it is very dark in many places, but it is also about the fact that change is possible and that it is never too late.              

Bibi Andersson and Victor Sjostrom in Wild Strawberries

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