Two estranged sisters, Ester and Anna, and Anna's 10-year-old son travel to the Central European country on the verge of war. Ester becomes seriously ill and the three of them move into a hotel in a small town called Timoka.
With the exception of his elderly housekeeper Miss Agda who he treats almost like a surrogate platonic wife, widowed seventy-eight year old Dr. Isak Borg, a former medical doctor and professor, has retreated from any human contact, partly his own want but partly the decision of others who do not want to spend time with him because of his cold demeanor. He is traveling from his home in Stockholm to Lund to accept an honorary degree. Instead of flying as was the original plan, he decides to take the day long drive instead. Along for the ride is his daughter-in-law Marianne, who had been staying with him for the month but has now decided to go home. The many stops and encounters along the way make him reminisce about various parts of his life. Those stops which make him reminisce directly are at his childhood summer home, at the home of his equally emotionally cold mother, and at a gas station where the attendants praise him as a man for his work. But the lives of other people they ...Written by
The carriage seen and heard by Isak Borg (Victor Sjostrom) in the dream sequence at the beginning of the film, is similar to a scene in The Phantom Carriage (1921) when David Holm (also played by Sjostrom) sees the carriage for the first time. See more »
When Isak looks up at the faceless clock, he retreats into its shadow. Next cut and there is no shadow. See more »
Professor Isak Borg:
We're not married, Miss Agda.
I thank God for that every night. I've used my common sense for 74 years, and it won't let me down now.
Professor Isak Borg:
Is that your last word?
Yes. But I shall say plenty to myself about selfish, crabby old men who never think of those who have served them faithfully for 40 years.
Professor Isak Borg:
Incredible that I have put up with your bossing for so long.
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During the first scene of "Wild Strawberries," I didn't think I'd be able to get through it -- the Swedish was so alien to me it sounded almost comical; it seemed as if every word ended with an "eer" sound. But quickly the beautiful black and white photography caught my eye and I was drawn into Isak Borg's story, or rather, his self-examination.
The progression of the film is fantastic. Early in the film, Isak has an apparition within a dream and the small events leading up to it, within the dream, are quite brilliant. Throughout the rest of the film there are dreams and recollections; newly discovered secrets of the past that Isak sees for the first time. As he says in the film, "Dreams, as if I must tell myself something I won't listen to when I'm awake."
How Bergman shows us the characters is terrific. It's a like a relaxed puzzle that doesn't emphasize any sort of urgency to figure things out. The story unfolds beautifully as we get a deeper sense of Isak, who I assume is an alter ago of Ingmar Bergman at that stage of his life (he was thirty-nine when the film was released).
It pains me to know that the majority of people my age would rather watch an Adam Sandler movie or "The Rock" than something like this. Hey, I liked "Big Daddy" and I love Nicolas Cage, but "Wild Strawberries" is one of the few films I've seen that could possibly change the way I live my life. I'm always interested in listening to what aged people have to say about their own life because, well, it can only give me tips about my own, and that's what this film does in a way.
There is one sequence in the film that is frightening and "arty," and I don't completely grasp what it means beyond Isak's deterioration and his realization of how people actually feel towards him (he's told earlier in the film as well, but he seems to accept this "verdict" more readily), but it doesn't take away from the film; rather, it's an interesting addition to an otherwise satisfying experience. In fact, it's probably the most vital part of the movie -- Isak may not like it, bbut once he gets past it, he has the option to develop.
I don't know if the film is a masterpiece -- it's my introduction to Bergman, so once I see "Cries and Whispers," "Fanny and Alexander," "Persona" and "The Seventh Seal" (if I can get through it, this time) I'll come back to this film with a new perspective, or at least see it as a part of Bergman's whole. I do think this is a great film of its type. It's the kind of film that may require viewings every five or so years, as a sort of reminder.
Pauline Kael once said that she didn't think much of Bergman because she'd done her share of soul-wrestling and it wasn't that difficult. The film isn't as challenging as I was expecting it to be, in fact, it's a walk in the park. It's pleasant and rich and beautiful, and the title seems perfect after you've seen the film. It's all about wild strawberries.
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