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Wild Strawberries (1957)

Smultronstället (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama, Romance | 22 June 1959 (USA)
After living a life marked by coldness, an aging professor is forced to confront the emptiness of his existence.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Folke Sundquist ...
Björn Bjelfvenstam ...
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Karin Borg - Isak's wife
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Aunt Olga
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Karin's lover
Yngve Nordwall ...
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Storyline

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 Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

from Ingmar Bergman...creator of "Smiles of a Summer Night" and "The Seventh Seal" See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Language:

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Release Date:

22 June 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Wild Strawberries  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

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Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Ingmar Bergman has described in the interview how he came up with the idea while driving from Stockholm to Dalarna, stopping in Uppsala where he had been born and raised, and driving by outside his grandmother's old house, when he suddenly began to think about how it would be if he could open the door and inside it would be just as it had been during his childhood. "So it struck me - what if you could make a film about this; that you just walk up in a realistic way and open a door, and then you walk into your childhood, and then you open another door and come back to reality, and then you make a turn around a street corner and arrive in some other period of your existence, and everything goes on, lives. That was actually the idea behind Wild Strawberries (1957)" See more »

Goofs

It has been included as a continuity error that Marianne says she is going to go swimming at the old house, but when she returns her hair does not appear to be wet. This is not a continuity error, because when the film was shot in the late 1950s, and for at least a decade afterwards, at least in the Nordic countries women gathered their hair up and covered it with a special swimming cap to protect their hair from becoming wet. Some women who had grown up during those times used swimming caps as late as the 1980s, because they had grown up with the custom, and a swimming cap was to them just as integral part of swimming attire as a swimming suit. See more »

Quotes

Sten Alman: Me and my wife are dependent on each other. It is out of selfish reasons we haven't beaten each other to death a long time ago.
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Connections

Referenced in American Masters: Woody Allen: A Documentary (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

UNDER ROENN OCH SYREN / BLOMMANDE SKOENA DALAR
(uncredited)
Music by Herman Palm
Lyrics by Sakari Topelius
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Bergman's Masterpiece Confronts us with the Important Question.
22 November 1998 | by See all my reviews

In Ingmar Berman's film masterpiece Smultronstallet (or ‘Wild Strawberries' B&W, 1957), the protagonist, an elderly professor who is facing death, has to come to face to face with a long life that has failed to answer the important questions. He is old now and faced with his own inadequacy and impotence.

Bergman introduces three young people into the drama to introduce life's most important question – that of the existence of God. The old man gives them a ride. One of the young men is thinking about becoming a parson; the other argues that God doesn't exist. The old man offers no opinion to the debate. He is silent, but it is a loud silence. It's a silence that reveals an amazing dimension of loss – the loss of year upon year of not coming to terms with this all-important question.

In one of the final scenes, Bergman masterfully closes in tight on the aged face of Professor Isak Borg (played by Victor Sjostrom). In that shot, we can see the whole universe in his eyes and all of its cares in the bags beneath them. Only Bergman could have directed that scene – only him. It makes Smultronstallet one of the most important films ever made. That one scene, better than any other that I know, captures ‘loss' on celluloid for all future generations to witness. If you see it, you may find yourself having to look away.

The imagery in Smultronstallet is unparalleled, except by Bergman's own Sjunde inseglrt, Det (The Seventh Seal, 1957). Look for the handless watch, the corpse wagon, the sparseness of the first scene, the car windows turning to black – ominous signs are everywhere. Notice the clues that point to Bergman's existential philosophy (the twins write a song for a deaf man – as futile as Sisyphus' labor!) and the redemption themes (Izak pierces his hand as he looks into the window, or the line: `A doctor's first duty is to ask for forgiveness.'). Notice also the outright defiance of the divine presence that he has bred into his son (`I will not be forced to live one day longer than I want to.').

Izak is ready to die, but it seems that, for him, life is more forbidding than death. He is a living corpse, dead already in nearly every way. All of these factors conspire to create a masterwork of pure art, and one that gets richer with each repeated viewing.

The film is also cathartic in the sense that Greek drama was cathartic – a warning to the men of ancient Greece to avoid the tragic flaw that undoes the hero - and may be a fateful knock on the door of your undoing as well. Have we answered the question that Izak has not? If not, Izak is us. Look hard - very hard - at Izak. Do you like what you see? To quote a line from the film: `Is there no mercy?' `Don't ask me.' I hope that all of us will fare better when confronted with the film's important question.


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