Wild Strawberries Reviews
The film is the odyssey of a rather cold, cerebral and elderly highly respected professor Isak Borg (Victor Sjostrom) as he goes on the road with his sensitive and prickly daughter in law to receive an out of town honor. Along the way, they visit Borg's even older and even colder 90 something mother.
Don't give up. The film initially seems to meander aimlessly. Numerous apparently unrelated events unfold, including a submersion into Borg's past memories, picking up a trio of young and naive hitchhikers, the rather prickly exchanges with the mother, an encounter with a bitter and unpleasant middle aged couple that have had a car crash, and various dark revelations by Marianne the daughter in law about her teetering marriage to Borg's difficult son, who has inherited his father's cold and isolating tendencies.
By the end, the film presents a unified whole of a man coming to terms with his life and taking down the high walls from others with which he has isolated himself. He forgives himself for his choices and his treatment of others, and is able to not only reconcile but express love for his pregnant daughter in law, the sensual and expressive Marianne, played by iconic Swedish beauty Ingrid Thulin. Look also for Bergman's favorite screen performer Max Von Sydow in a cameo performance as a small town gas station owner who reminds Borg of the good he has done in his life. He shows some range as he is convincing as a simple goodhearted working man, a contrast from his usual high minded, tortured intellectual characters.
The crisp and gorgeous black and white photography of Bergman's early collaborator Gunnar Fischer presents the story not in gritty documentary style, but in picturesque, highly contrasting stylized compositions. This is appropriate to the memories and elegiac retrospective of Borg's life. Rarely cited as a Bergman favorite due to it's rambling nature, quiet introspection and the subtlety of its revelations, it may be his best film. It's certainly his gentlest.
Maybe I'm just tired of this sort of thing. Maybe I'm not as much into heady pretentious art cinema as I let on, or maybe, I'm in the right and everyone else has their blinders on?
Moving on, the plot follows a lonely 78 year-old widower professor who takes a long car ride to accept and honorary degree from his old university. Along the way, he meets some colorful characters, and, through a series of (often trippy and surreal) dreams, nightmares, and flashbacks, is forced to confront his troubled past, come to terms with how his life has ended up, and hopefully find some redemption before ceasing to be.
I do like movies like this that deal with journeys of discovery, and road movies, but for some reason, even though I liked The Virgin Spring, and The Seventh Seal, I just had a really hard time getting into this and caring as much as I should. It's slow, a little too boring at times, and rather hard to distinguish when the film isn't depicting reality.
I'm recommending it though, because it looks absolutely gorgeous in crisp black and white, the images and dream/nightmare sequences are tremendously stunning to look at, and the film does have some good performances. Like I said though, it's a bit hard to care at times, and it baffles me as to why this film is as lauded as it is. I mean, yeah, I get the style and great strengths at work, and the themes are good ones, but the main character is hard to relate to, and I feel like the film relies too much on the style to propel things.
All in all, yes, an important film, and a good one, but far from being the stellar absolute masterpiece that basically everyone but me and maybe a few others think it is. If you're wanting to get into the history of Euro art house cinema, then this is a required stop, and if you like heavy philosophical films then you might want to see this as well, However, don't expect it to be an easy watch, or something that, due to it's influence, doesn't have the impact and originality that it once did.
When confronted with the looming shadow of death, Dr. Borg doesn't recall his lifetime of dedication to humanitarian work but instead re-lives the longlost loves and regrets of his youth. When his brother stole his betrothed away, the first instance that really toughened up the naive young Isak. All of Dr. Borg's flashbacks and hallucinatory dreams are voyeuristic in nature. He calls out to his one-time fiance Sara, only to watch in silence the moment when, while picking wild strawberries, she's swept off her feet by his ne'er-do-well brother. Maybe it's all psychological, in that it comes from one of his most deep-seated humiliations at the hands of his wife, dead for nearly 20 years. Or maybe it's just part of his lineage, as it is with his 96 year old mother, who's only purpose in life is to deny her great grandchildren their inheritance by staying alive, and his son Evald, who hates his life so much his only desire in life is a quick death. Bergman fleshes out the life of Dr. Isak Borg while at the same time bringing us more intimately closer to the universal fear of death. How do we live our lives and what regrets linger long after the people we love have turned to dust? Wild Strawberries is somehow both haunting and warm; in the end, we can find comfort in ourselves if our happy memories out-number our bad.
The original Swedish title is Smultronstället, which literally means "the wild strawberry patch", but idiomatically means an underrated gem of a place (often with personal or sentimental value) - and that is a perfect title for this classical work of art. . I watched it few times, since I was 13 and always managed to find something new in it... but Victor Sjöström's acting wasn't new... it was seen and perfect together with my favourite Ingrid Thulin. Bergman's immediate choice for the leading role of the old professor was Victor Sjöström (Bergman's silent film idol) and they both did a great job working together while Ingrid Thulin plays Marianne, the sad gentle and warm daughter-in-law of Borg. The interesting thing is that Bergman wrote the screenplay of Wild Strawberries in Stockholm's Karolinska Hospital (the workplace of Isak Borg).
This is one of the greatest films ever, if you ask me! It won the Golden Bear for Best Film at the 8th Berlin International Film Festival, "Best Film" and "Best Actor" at the Mar del Plata Film Festival and won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film in 1960. It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Original Screenplay. The film is included on the Vatican Best Films List, recommended for its portrayal of a man's "interior journey from pangs of regret and anxiety to a refreshing sense of peace and reconciliation". In a 1963 interview with Cinema magazine Stanley Kubrick listed the film as his second favourite of all time.
It should be on everyone's "must see" list!