Elderly Izak Borg, on a car journey across Sweden to receive his honorary doctorate, relives his life through dreams, imagination and encounters with others. Perhaps Bergman’s best-loved film, Wild Strawberries tells the story of three generations of a not always lovable family with great humanity, warmth and humour. Oh, and we’re promised that the print is ‘lucid black and white with clear subtitles’.
Sweden 1957, 93 minutes
Izak Borg, an elderly professor, is travelling by car with his daughter-in-law Marianne to receive an honorary doctorate, setting the seal on a distinguished life. During the day-long journey he dozes, they talk, visit his mother, stop for food, and pick up strangers – a girl and her two suitors, and a quarrelling couple. Through the events of the day, the memories they evoke, and the dreams and nightmares that visit his sleep, he reviews what seems to him to be an unsatisfactory life that has left him an old, pedantic, lonely widower.
To Ingmar Bergman it was an intensely personal film: ‘I was then thirty-seven, cut off from all human relations. It was I who had done the cutting off, presumably an act of self-affirmation. I was a loner, a failure, I mean a complete failure. Though successful. And clever. And orderly. And disciplined.’
The film’s producer suggested the great silent film director, Victor Sjöström, to play Izak. After thinking long and hard, Bergman agreed, and Sjöström proved just as effective in front of the camera as behind it: ‘Victor Sjöström took my text, made it his own, invested it with his own experiences: his pain, his misanthropy, his brutality, sorrow, fear, loneliness, coldness, warmth, harshness and ennui… I had nothing to add, not even a sensible or irrational comment.’
As you would expect from Bergman, the film is far from straightforward; semi-mystical, surreal in places, mixing up past and present – one critic at the time wondered ‘if Mr Bergman himself knew what he was trying to say’ – albeit with some stunning and beautiful images. What you might not expect, especially from Bergman’s ‘accentuating the negative’ in his writings on the film, is its warmth, humour, and ultimately positive resolution.
Izak Borg: Victor Sjöström
Marianne: Ingrid Thulin
Sara: Bibi Andersson
Director/Screenplay: Ingmar Bergman
Producer: Carls Anders Dymling
Photography: Gunnar Fischer
“A masterpiece – even better than I had remembered it from 40yrs ago!”
“Brilliant – just like ‘A Christmas Carol’ & ‘Scrooge’!”
“Deservedly a classic & again THREE CHEERS for black & white.”
“Not really sure what either (film) was trying to say.”
“Trying very hard to work out which (film) was worse: Wild Strawberries (possibly) sub-titled A Christmas Carol Stripped of Humour, Pace or Excitement?”