Wild Strawberries

Ingmar Bergman, Sweden 1957, 91 mins

Retired professor Isak Borg travels through the countryside on his way to receive an honorary award, accompanied by his daughter-in-law Marianne. Borg is a cold and distant man who has always had difficulties in his relationships with others. Along the way Borg passes places he remembers from his youth. This, along with a series of encounters ­ a hitchhiker who is the exact double of a youthful love, a near-collision with a group of argumentative youths ­ gives the Professor cause to recall incidents from his life and reflect upon his successes and failures.

Wild Strawberries is quite simply a must-see for the serious filmgoer, offering a perfect introduction to the work of one of the world's greatest directors. For while it showcases Bergman's characteristic mastery of cinematic symbolism and his willingness to tackle subjects that most other filmmakers would balk at, Wild Strawberries also exhibits greater levels of compassion and humour than many of his other masterpieces. (Note here that wild strawberries are a symbol of rebirth in Sweden, and so function within the film as an indication that Borg ultimately reaffirms the value of his life.)

Wild Strawberries is also of note for its brilliant performances, not just from Bergman's invariably excellent stock company but also from the 78-year-old Victor Sjöström, a noted actor-director of the silent era. Indeed we might see the Sjöström-Bergman collaboration as something of a torch-passing from one generation to the next: Sjöström's most celebrated film, The Phantom Chariot (1920) is notable for its own bold narrative construction in which one flashback sequence leads on to the next.

Keith H. Brown
EUFS Programme 1998-99