Bergmania #2: Wild Strawberries (1957)

Smultronstallet / Wild Strawberries

Although the film opens on a surreal and lonely dream where the main character, Dr. Isak Borg witnesses the death of a man he doesn’t know and his own death of him in a coffin, for the most part, as the title suggests, this film is fairly simplistic.

Dr. Isak Borg (Victor Sjostrom) is headed to Lund from Stockholm to receive an Honorary Degree in medicine from Lund University, after being such a success in the medical industry for the past 50 years. Initially set to fly to Lund, he has a sudden change of heart at 3am (Roman symbolism: 3 = trial, just a cute little thing I’d like to point out, as the film is all about trial) and tells his housekeeper Agda that he’s instead going to drive the distance. He eats a small breakfast, then his daughter-in-law, Marianne asks for a ride with him and that’s the basis of the story. Throughout their travel, Isak comes to learn that Marianne and her husband (his son) are not fond of him – deeming him a cold and cruel man. His personality seems to warm as the film progresses and it’s a very becoming look for the elderly man.

They stop by at his old summer house where he had his first love with his cousin Sara (Bibi Andersson in a duel role) who chose the more daring and manly Borg (Sigfrid) over Isak. Sequentially meets a trio of teenagers – one of which remind him of his cousin Sara and who is also named Sara. He gives them a ride to Lund – they’re headed to Italy. The trio add for some colorful entertainment and interesting symbolism – the two men fight for the love of Sara (reminiscent to his battle with Sigfrid over Sara) and of course, the two men fight over the foundations of religion (religion causes unnecessary war and violence; reiterated by the angered married couple they drive for a short period of time). Of course there are a few other little quips about mankind and humanity – in one scene a character suggests that there is no such thing as right or wrong, but rather moments in which we act on our needs. I feel that that one line perfectly sums up everything the film is about. Though the film has a fair few surreal scenes that are all directly related to Isak’s own self-loathing and masked depression, at the end of the day it’s a genuine and optimistic tale. Unlike most Bergman, the hate is kept to a minimum and the film thrives on love, coming to terms with life before it’s too late, and just a bunch of happy thoughts. A sweet, tidy film that will leave you with a large smile. [9/10]