Smultronstället (Wild Strawberries) (1957)
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After exploring his disillusionment with religion in his previous films, Ingmar Bergman adopted a humanistic approach for this classic study in isolationism. Legendary Scandinavian director Victor Sjöström stars as Isak Borg, an aging medical professor who reassesses his life while journeying to his former university to receive an honorary degree. Borg travels with his estranged daughter-in-law Marianne (Ingrid Thulin) and revisits many of the landmarks of his past, conjuring up memories of his family and of his onetime sweetheart Sara (Bibi Andersson). Returning to the present, he meets a teenage girl who resembles the long-departed Sara. She hitches a ride with the professor and Marianne, as do a ceaselessly bickering married couple. These new characters eventually become intertwined with Borg's hazy flashbacks and fantasies, as the old man recalls the disappointments and disillusionments that have left him cold and guilt-ridden, attributes emphasized when he encounters his equally cold and resentful son. Bookending Borg's odyssey of self-discovery are a series of symbolic images at the beginning of the film (a clock without hands, a man without a face) and a hauntingly beautiful finale, in which professor is beckoned back to the "perfect" world he left behind so many years earlier. This classic art movie remains one of Bergman's most accessible films and one of the most influential European art movies of its generation. Its intense focus on one man's thoughts, regrets, and memories set the tone for innumerable psychological character studies in its wake. … More
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Critic Reviews for Smultronstället (Wild Strawberries)
Mr. Bergman, being a poet with the camera, gets some grand, open, sensitive images, but he has not conveyed full clarity in this film.
[VIDEO ESSAY] "Wild Strawberries" is a thematically abundant film that fluidly condenses a lifetime's worth of experience into succinct cinematic fragments under Ingmar Bergman's complex construction of abstract corollaries.
...an intensely cinematic psychological portrait of a man reckoning with the how and why of who he's become.
Gunnar Fischer's photography becomes ever more luminous and Sjöström's performance grows in greatness.
The relentless symbolism, and some rather heavy-handed dream sequences are off-putting at times, but Wild Strawberries has enough sorrow, warmth and profundity to make for sophisticated and rewarding viewing.
If some of the symbolism is a bit top-heavy, Bergman's richly evocative contrasts of youth with age more than compensate, as does Sjöström's majestic performance.
A reviewer must exercise some tact in discussing this picture. It is a work of such high and subtle art that the temptation is to run in with a smother of adjectives and a display of analytical explanation.
Bergman's often heralded masterpiece of European cinema is more than a formal delight. It's funny, touching, and very, very emotional.
Swedish master Ingmar Bergman delivered one of his greatest ruminations on love and life in this 1957 drama.
Several actors who were to form the director's virtual stock company are here, but it is Sjöström who is heart and soul of the film.
With unyielding moral precision no less austere for the lack of any religious conviction behind it, Bergman subjects his protagonist to judgment for the crimes of indifference and selfishness, and pronounces a verdict of "the usual" sentence: loneliness.
One of Ingmar Bergman's many masterpieces, this universal meditation on the meaning of life is extremely well-acted by Victor Sjostrom (also known as director) as ther aging professor.
It's most memorable due to the heartfelt sterling performance by the seventy-something Victor Seastrom.
A film of rare beauty and pain
Audience Reviews for Smultronstället (Wild Strawberries)
much less involved than many of bergman's other films, but profound in its simplicity. i was less impressed with the camera work than usual for his films, but the story lends itself well to introspection. charming.More
"You know so much, and you don't know anything."
Master of all things meaningful, oeuvre-crafter Ingmar Bergman is no stranger to philosophy. Where the common director goes for the risklessly safe, Bergman takes the audacious route in a prototype vehicle. Every undertaking a challenge. Every tale a crack at the Herculean questions of life and death.
"Who am I and why have I become this way?" are the ones at the heart of Wild Strawberries, a character study of infinite appliance, about an old medical professor named Dr. Isak Borg, who at the winter of his existence reminisce on the choices and events that would eventually arrive at his socially distanced self. Lonely, in part by selection. Cynical and cranky, as the result of incidents made fog-like by the opacity of years gone by.
But then it comes to him in a dream: angst-filled, strikingly symbolic imagery, involving a handless clock (as if to say his time is up) a coffin, flying open, revealing his still alive double expressing spiritual unrest (a self-explanatory metaphor) and last, but certainly least on the bizarreness barometer, a man with a face that - in lack of a better description - only a mother could love. To that last bit I say: [insert interpretation here]. But it is disturbing, let me tell you.
Catalytic in effect, the dream sequence also has the function of a pivotal epiphany. A knock on the door from the bony knuckles of the Grim Reaper (and perhaps a game of chess later on) which in reality manifests itself as an altered course of action. Instead of, as he had originally planned, taking a plane from his home in Stockholm to Lund where he is expected to receive an honorary degree, Dr. Borg decides to go by car instead, making a few stops along the way in what becomes an external journey as much as a spiritual one.
Following along is Marianne, his daughter-in-law played by the drop-dead gorgeous Ingrid Thulin. An actress of such contemporary beauty that you'd never guess it was shot in 1957. We also meet Sara, a sassy young woman (in a vibrant turn by Bibi Andersson) and her entourage consisting of two men at different positions regarding the existence of God. There are some fantastic scenes involving these two; starting off as intellectual debate and later escalating to some more testosterone-filled pushing and shoving. After which Sara hilariously responds: "Well, is there a God?"
There's a lot of humorous touches like that baked into the strawberry pie, which makes it all the tastier. Sweet as that may be though, the main ingredient is more like lemon; sour at Dr. Isak's musings, about love lost and desires unfulfilled. A character who we get to know inside and out, as memories from his past suddenly becomes clear as day; accounting for his glass-is-half-empty persona, as well as the anima in which we discover a man full of warmth and love.
In theme and sentiment, it reminded me a great deal of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and works beautifully as a companion piece to The Seventh Seal. The soul-searching, the existential reflections - it not only mirrors Bergman's own inner struggles at the time (referred to as his "middle period") but also serves as an insightful clue to the subversive, independent thought patterns that shaped the modern Swedish mindset and made it what it is today.
If I'm going to fault the film for anything, it's that shifts in dialogue between poetic and folksy aren't always in concert. For the most part, the screenplay nails it, so it's by no means a major issue, but enough to place it half a star away from a perfect score. Apart from that, however, a deeply mesmerizing meditation on life, death, faith and regret. Riveting performance by Victor Sjöström as Dr. Borg and a magnificent film altogether, which became even more captivating by the fact that I have traveled on some of the same roads as they do in the film (both scenery-wise and spiritually I should say).
Yet, to put it all in words, as I have attempted here, is rather futile when it comes to Bergman. There's not a film by him that I have seen so far that haven't submerged me in a flood of ethereal contemplation. Timeless and spellbinding, it's a maelstrom, however, that I'm more than happy to swirl about in.
An aging professor has dreams and flashbacks to his youth as he drives to a university to accept an honorary degree. An elegiac reflection on an ordinary life; many people respond empathetically to this one, while it leaves many others (like me) a bit cold.More
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