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A cathartic viewing experience
jonr-312 January 2004
I'd seen "Wild Strawberries" as a college freshman when it was first released, and knew right away I'd be a Bergman fan from then on.

I watched it again just last night, January 2004, at age 63, and needless to say got a whole different perspective on the film. Where the surrealist touches, moody photography, and incredibly smooth direction had made the big hit with me as a near boy, as an aging man I found myself--I hesitate to say painfully, but...well, closely--identifying with old Isak Borg in his strange pilgrimage, both interior and exterior, the day he receives his honorary degree at the cathedral in Lund.

In the last twenty minutes or so of the movie, I found tears running down my face, not from any thrilling sentimental browbeating (I doubt if Mr. Bergman shot five seconds' worth of sentimentality in his whole long career!) but simply from the cumulative emotional impact of this simple, powerful story and its probing revelation of human character, desire, and chagrin.

By the time the film ended, I felt wrung out, disoriented, happy and deeply sad at the same time: it's the experience the Greeks wanted their tragedies to convey to the spectator; they spoke of "katharsis." I experienced it firsthand when I had the great good fortune to see a production (in English) of "Medea." I walked away in tears and scarcely able to think straight for an hour or so.

The same thing happened with "Wild Strawberries." This is one of the handful of films I unhesitatingly rate a "ten."

A side note: I watched the Criterion Collection DVD. Before the film itself, I watched the hour-long interview conducted in 1998 by Jorn Donner included on the disc. It was remarkable to see how the film Bergman shot ca. 1957 contains many elements that were to be present in his later life--like a foreshadowing of his own old age.
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When film was an art form
DeeNine-221 June 2004
In this symbolic tale of an old man's journey from emotional isolation to a kind of personal renaissance, Ingmar Bergman explores in part his own past, and in doing so rewards us all with a tale of redemption and love.

Victor Sjostrom, then 80 years old, stars as Professor Isak Borg whose self-indulgent cynicism has left him isolated from others. Sjostrom, whose work goes back to the very beginning of the Swedish cinema in the silent film era, both as an actor and as a director, gives a brilliant and compelling performance. All the action of the film takes place in a single day with flashbacks and dream sequences to Borg's past as Borg wakes and goes on a journey to receive a "Jubilee Doctor" degree from the University of Lund. Bergman wrote that the idea for the film came upon him when he asked the question, "What if I could suddenly walk into my childhood?" He then imagined a film "about suddenly opening a door, emerging in reality, then turning a corner and entering another period of one's existence, and all the time the past is going on, alive."

Bibi Andersson plays both the Sara from Borg's childhood, the cousin he was to marry, and the hitchhiker Sara who with her two companions befriends him with warmth and affection. The key scene is when the ancient Borg in dreamscape comes upon the Sara of his childhood out gathering wild strawberries. Borg looks on (unnoticed of course) as his brother, the young Sigfrid, ravishes her with a kiss which she returns passionately; and, as the wild strawberries fall from her bowl onto her apron, staining it red, Borg experiences the pain of infidelity and heartbreak once again. Note that in English we speak of losing one's "cherry"; here the strawberries symbolize emotionally much the same thing for Sara. Later on in the film as the redemption comes, the present day Sara calls out to Borg that it is he that she really loves, always and forever. Borg waves her away from the balcony, yet we are greatly moved by her love, and we know how touched he is.

The two young men accompanying Sara can be seen as reincarnations of the serious and careful Isak Borg and the more carefree and daring Sigfrid. It is as though his life has returned to him as a theater in which the characters resemble those of his past; yet we are not clear in realizing whether the resemblance properly belongs in the old man's mind or is a synchronicity of time returned.

Memorable is Ingrid Thulin who plays Mariana, the wife of Borg's son who accompanies him on the auto trip to Lund. She begins with frank bitterness toward the old man but ends with love for him; and again we are emotionally moved at the transformation. What Bergman does so very well in this film is to make us experience forgiveness and the transformation of the human spirit from the negative emotions of jealousy and a cold indifference that is close to hate, to the redemption that comes with love and a renewal of the human spirit. In quiet agreement with this, but with the edge of realism fully intact, is the scene near the end when Borg asks his long time housekeeper and cook if they might not call one another by their first names. She responses that even at her age, a woman has her reputation to consider. Such a gentle comeuppance meshes well with, and serves as a foil for, all that has gone on before on this magical day in an old man's life.

See this for Bergman who was just then realizing his genius (The Seventh Seal was produced immediately before this film) and for Sjostrom who had the rare opportunity to return to film as an actor in a leading role many decades past him prime, and made the most of it with a flawless performance, his last major performance as he was to die three years later.

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
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One of Master's Most Optimistic, Profound, And Warmest Films.
G_a_l_i_n_a7 July 2005
I first saw "Wild Strawberries" many years ago at one of the special screenings in the small theater in Moscow. It was the first Bergman's film I ever saw. This picture is amazing in its emotional impact and in my opinion is one of Bergman's most optimistic, profound, and warm films.

"Wild Strawberries" provides sincere, intelligent, and emotional contemplations of life's disappointment, regrets, and losses. The main character, seventy-eight-year-old Professor Isak Borg is forced to see his life in a true and painful light, but he also would learn that there is hope.

Sparkling cinematography by Gunnar Fisher and superb acting of Bergman's regulars – Ingrid Thulin, Bibi Anderson, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Max von Sydow and especially, the great silent film director, Victor Sjostrom as Professor Borg add to many delights of "Wild Strawberries" which also include Bergman's writing/directing with his famous mixing of conscious and unconscious, dreams and reality, the past and the present in the same scene.
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Film as an art form
wiseowl-53 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
We trace the journey of an elderly professor who is traveling to receive an honor for a life of accomplishment and service. Along the way he confronts the lack of success in his human relationships as opposed to the success he has enjoyed professionally. A string of encounters with the past and with iconic people he meets gradually bring the contrast into focus for the viewer.

I particularly liked the subtle and intelligent storytelling in this film. He tells us before the credits that he is just a boring pedant. We realize as he comes to realize what this has really meant to him. We slowly receive hints of the emotional truths that frame the man's life. He is confronted by traces of how things could have been different.

Important points are hinted at without being said--the viewer is left to sort them out. For example, the couple at the gas station convince us in a short and seemingly banal exchange that the Professor was a great healer whose service to those outside his family was anything but sterile. Yet speaking to his daughter-in-law, his smug insistence that a debt must be paid gives us a glimpse at what it must have been like for his son to have been held at emotional bay by bloodless, cold rationalism.

This film deserves NOT to be remade, in order to preserve its artistic integrity. It affirms that film can be an art form that touches the soul as opposed to merely a product to be sold.
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Stunning Bergman Masterpiece -- Maybe His Best?
evanston_dad20 September 2006
"Wild Strawberries" profoundly moved me. The theme -- an old man coming up fast on death and wondering if his life has had any meaning -- is an old one for Bergman, and one which he explored ad nauseum throughout the subsequent decades. But here Bergman approaches the question with an uncharacteristic optimism and sense of hope. For once, he seems to come close to finding some peace with the unknowns of life that obviously preoccupied him as an artist, and the movie he gives us is sad but immensely warm; resigned but calm and reflective.

An unequivocal masterpiece, and only one of a handful of Bergman films ("Persona" and "Cries and Whispers" being two others) that don't drive me over the edge when I watch them now.

Grade: A+
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One of Bergman's greatest achievements
pooch-816 February 1999
Wild Strawberries can be praised for so many reasons, but chief among them in my own mind is the way in which the film so perfectly conveys its themes of self-examination and the contemplation of one's own mortality (particularly through its stunning use of flashbacks). Bergman's autobiographical story also benefits from the brilliant casting of Swedish film legend Victor Sjostrom as Isak Borg, whose towering performance is essential to the success of Wild Strawberries. I read that Bergman based the coffin dream sequence on a frequent nightmare that he had -- and it never ceases to amaze me just how effective it remains even after all these years. Wild Strawberries seems like a quiet, thoughtful, introsepective movie -- and it is; it is also one of world cinema's most impressive motion pictures.
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First Bergman
SanTropez_Couch22 January 2003
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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exceptionally well made
MartinHafer10 July 2005
Although I'm not the biggest Ingmar Bergman fan, I have really enjoyed some of his movies--especially the one that are not so pessimistic. Although the underlying theme of this movie is aging and impending death, the movie is NOT all pessimism. If it had been, it would have lost my interest early on. Instead, I really enjoyed the film--particularly the fine acting by Victor Sjöström as Professor Borg.

The professor is well-respected for his work as a doctor. However, despite his success in his career, he is a failure in his personal relationships. His emotional baggage over the years has prevented him from allowing himself to be close to those he truly loves. This theme mirrors one of the subplots of Through a Glass Darkly, where a father is being destroyed inside by his daughter's mental illness but he CANNOT allow himself to show his anguish--choosing instead to hide in his room with his tears. It is interesting that the same man playing Borg's son (Gunnar Björnstrand) plays the father only a few years later in Through a Glass Darkly.

Fortunately, unlike Through a Glass Darkly, there IS evidence that the professor is willing to change his persona, as he begins to open up more through the course of the movie. This appears to be assisted through extensive soul searching and dreams the professor has concerning his past and his own mortality--along with experiences he has during a long drive down the coast of Sweden. Because of this, even his extremely strained relationship with his son appears to hold some hope of improvement by the film's end. This hope for change lifts this movie above some Bergman films that only wallow in hopelessness.

FYI--The Criterion version of this DVD is nice due to its running commentary as well as the accompanying documentary. Get this version if you have the chance.

Also FYI--After watching many Bergman films and reading about his life, I detect quite a bit of autobiography in this film and his own stuggles with intimacy.
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Bergman knows how to make you think.
iam-124 January 2000
Bergman has been seen by many as being a depressing film makes, who speaks above the heads of most people. Thank God someone does! In this piece of genius, we are asked to consider who God is; what makes a life worthwhile; and whether human nature alters through the generations, or is it just the costumes that change? As usual, the answers are to be provided by the audience. We must chose for ourselves what we think is 'right' or 'just'. Bergman uses the usual pattern for him - a man is on a journey (life) and meets people who are going along the same road (friends and family), and they all head toward the end of their trip (death). They stop in for obligatory visits with relatives and for food (as we all do), receive an honourary degree (fame & success?), and then send the children off to a party held in our honour that we do not attend (funeral). What happens along the way is important, but we always end up in the same place - the end. Wonderful editing techniques, good story, good images, fantastic acting, and more ideas and questions to ponder than one film can hold - or so you thought. It's only after the film ends that these ponderings come to you. During the film, you simply watch a man travel from his home to another city, but this is far from what the film is about. See this film once, think about the questions it poses, then rewind and see it again. You will be rewarded for doing so.
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The only reality
Vincentiu24 December 2006
A gorgeous movie about memory and hope. A trip and a form of catharsis. It is not a story of an old man who discovers images of his past, about a marital crisis or some teenagers. It is not a confession. It is a mirror. The same crisis is the "gift" of everybody. The same silence, fear and desire are the refuge of a man, a woman, a n American or Irakian. At a moment, at a single moment, you discover your past like only reality. Like your real skin, your only voice, your essential eye. It is not strange. We are the fruits of some experiences. Some books, some people, a family, a child or a wife are the Ganymedes of our hours, our evolution, our death. Our freedom, our gestures, our smile are the trees of their presence. Isak Borg is the image of a age. Our age who grow-up in the noise of every day. The isolation is only way to be yourself. The way to Lund, the relation with Agda, the empty attitude, the projection in Evald, the words are the symbols of a clock who is seed of our conscience. Childhood is only reality of our life.
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Bergman's Masterpiece Confronts us with the Important Question.
Gene-3222 November 1998
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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One last time around the strawberry patch.
sol-kay29 December 2006
(Slight Spoilers) A man's life journey is all seen through a number of dreams and hallucinations on his trip, some 400 miles, to the town of Lund where he's to receive a lifetime achievement award for his 50 or so years of service to his fellow man as a doctor and a professor of medicine at his alma mater the Cathedral of Lund.

Disturbed by a dream he had the night before Isak Borg decides to take a ride by car, not plane, to Lund for a ceremony thats to be in his honor for his work as a man of medicine. Isak's maid for some 40 years Agda is very upset with her boss' and good friends decision and decides to stay at home, she'll eventually show up at the ceremony, feeling that the old man has somehow lost control of his senses. It turns out that the long car trip together with his daughter-in-law Marianne was one of the best decision that he made in his long life, Isak is 78 years old. The trip that Isak takes will bring back past memories that he so desperately tried to hide from himself. That past will in effect make him not only a better person but bring back the feeling of humanity that he lost not only for himself over these long and empty years. Not only for Isak but for those close to him whom he more or less also lost contact with. Isak,in both his dreams and memories, is seen as a man who is unable to show any real feelings for those around and close to him in the fear of either being rejected as well as showing himself to be hurt by their negative responses.

This defect in Isak personality has cost him the love of his life Sara when he was a young man who rejected him for his handsome and openly aggressive older brother Sigfried. We also see that Isak's marriage to his wife, who had long since passed away, Karin was anything but happy with her disgusted with his inability to show her any real feelings and emotions as a husband. Were also shown, in one of Isak's dreams, that she had an affair with another man Ake Fridell, who was anything but passive with her like her husband Isak was, some 40 years ago behind his back. That may have possibly resulted in the birth of his only child his son, who's also a doctor, Evald Marriane's husband.

Seeing his 96 year-old mother on his way to Lund we see in her the same human defect that he has in that all of her ten children, who with the exception of Isak are now deceased, never bothered to visit her in her old age. The only time that they had anything to do with her was when they wanted money from the old lady. This coldness and inability to have any attachment to her children is shown not only in both Isak and his mother but in his son Evald who's so disgusted with life and what it had to offer him, like a beautiful and caring wife like Marianne. Evald threatened to walk out on Marianne when after he found out of her being pregnant, I guess by him, she refused his demand of her getting an abortion.

Isak is helped on his long trip to Lund not only by Marianne but a number of people they meet and in some cases give a ride along the way. This included a young girl and two of her friend going on a trip to Italy ironically named Sara, a virtual twin of the Sara that he loved and lost as a young man. Later Sara together with Anders and Victor who later as a singing group serenade a surprised and grateful, to the point of tears, Isak after he received his award. Meeting among others along the way to far flung Lund a bickering couple Mr. & Mrs. Alman, who almost had Isak and his passengers killed in a head-on car crash. Isak also met a gas station attendant, Henrik, who was so impressed and grateful by what he did for him and his wife in the past , delivered their first child, that he refused to get paid for filling up Isak's gas-tank.

By the time Isak got to Lund and received his lifetime achievement award to the attendance and cheering of the entire town he not only realized all the good that he did as a man of medicine all these years but also all the hurt that he gave to others, if unintentional. With the little time that he has left, Isak was to pass away three years later at the age of 81, Isak is determined to make up for it.

Sweet touching yet simple little film about one man's journey back in time who sees how he missed out on the many wonderful things that life had to offer him by being blind to them. Now given a second chance Isak would try as best as he can to both re-live and at the same time correct his past mistakes.
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Better late than never; tragicomedy ending with hope
dr_of_lube28 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is a film school movie; one of the greatest ever made, or so say the experts. I was told to read the play (The English title is "Wild Strawberries") in a lit class in college and then we were given the chance to see the film. I watched both showings and it changed my thinking about what makes a good movie. This was in the stone age back in '75. I was a wild boy about campus who's taste for films was more action/adventure, western and mystery/suspense. The funny thing about Wild Strawberries is there's a little of all those genre's in it (if you understand what a cowboy Bergmann was at this point in his career).

This is the story about the late-life introspection of an elderly physician. It really appears on the surface to be about as dull a concept for a film as one could ever want to suffer through. But this is a story about facing reality, and reality is rarely dull. The plot moves seamlessly through many phases, but much of it involves a road trip through the Swedish countryside.

I recently bought a DVD of the 70's cult car-chase flick "Vanishing Point"; I hadn't seen it since the drive-in in my college years. I also own a Criterion Collection copy of Wild Strawberries and I've watched both recently. I realized that Wild Strawberries is a car chase flick as well. But Bergmann's Isak is not running from war weariness but from a life of nihilism cloaked in the old-world respectability of a family doctor. The chase is his lifetime of self-certainty, agnosticism and increasing isolation finally catching up to him. He realizes that he has been a walking dead man for much of his life (something he partially inherited from his mother). Getting too far into the details may fall into the category of being a spoiler, although there is enough complexity in this plot to keep literature classes struggling for an A for a long time (note: the stage play script is exactly the same as the screenplay script).

There are a number of notable scenes in the movie that make this day a turning point in the life of the doctor. The ground-breaking dream sequences in the beginning is Hitchcock-like and terrifyingly surreal (or is Hitch being Bergmannesque?). Of great beauty is the reverie scene, where Isak relives some of his childhood while making a stop at his families' deserted summer lake house. The dialog scenes between Isak and his daughter-in-law, and later with the Almans (including another disturbing dream sequence) and with the "children" (hitchhiking college-age kids) are all filled with symbols and conversation pointing to Isak's living-dead existence.

It's interesting that Bergmann himself, at this point in his young career, was much like Isak; agnostic, distant, self-absorbed, incapable of intimacy. Yet his conclusion to Wild Strawberries is much more hopeful than what Bergmann's own life has been.

The turning point of the movie, easy to miss if you're not paying close attention, is the love-promise from the young hitchhiker Sara; a moment of incredible sweetness and innocent passion that is a regeneration, a salvation experience for Isak. Unlike Bergmann, Isak closes his eyes that night with the hope of a life of meaning, of love in service, not just service for maintaining personal dignity and image. Unlike Bergmann, Isak has a hope of seeing God when his death does arrive, and has demonstrated a new life has begun. This is Isak's Today; his day of repentance, of stopping the tortuous task of hardening his heart against the call of life, yielding in submission to love, mercy and grace.

Watch this one several times. Bergmann's troupe of actors are incredible, his cinematography is spartan and overwhelmingly effective; his location shooting in the beautiful Swedish summer is fascinatingly effective in giving a foreign yet "down-home" feeling that's almost Mayberry like, if that's not too extreme a comparison.

This movie shows the dichotomy of living for self versus living for the service of others. Isak thought he lived to serve but discovered that service is only of meaning to the server if it is from the heart. It is ultimately a hopeful picture that we can all learn from if we watch with an open heart. Otherwise, we see the wasted tragedy of existential living with no greater good than one's own dead image. Does YOUR watch have any hands?
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A Magnificent Film
thxrvg28 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
There are moments in Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries where you become so enthralled by an image that you want to dwell on it, until you realize that there are so many such moments that to do so would be to stop at practically every scene in the film. The sheer technical and visual skill that Bergman shows here is unsurprising, insofar as we ought to expect this from him, but it is dazzling, even when it is displayed in a film that, on the surface, has a rather tame premise. An old man, Professor Isak Borg (played to perfection by Victor Sjöström), is driving to Lund, where he is to be honoured. His son's wife, and three spirited young people, two men and a woman, accompany him. They also pick up an utterly depressed couple along the way, only to drop them off when they begin to fight. Interspersed with the present actions are the old man's dreams, and flashbacks to his youth.

Out of this material, Bergman crafts a wonderful and touching film about redemption. There is always a tendency to marvel at how an atheist like Bergman can be so deeply involved with religious issues, but many atheists, of course, are atheists precisely as a result of such deep involvement. I don't know enough about Bergman's views on religion to comment on his attitude towards God and religion beyond the basics. What is important, at any rate, is that this film is one in which an old man is redeemed from a miserably lonely and empty existence through contact with others. This is a deeply humanistic view of redemption, and one which is firmly grounded in reality.

The film begins with the professor telling us that he has distanced himself from others, because he has shunned human relationships. This has left him feeling empty and alone. The man we see seems nice enough, until we learn from his son's wife, who speaks frankly to him, how this self-imposed exilic state has rendered him selfish and aloof. Through flashbacks and the dream sequences, we learn enough about his life to chart his progress: when young, the girl he loved, Sara, chose his brother over him. The professor married, but the marriage was a bad one; his wife cheated on him, but it apparently did nothing for him. To her, as she states in one of the dream sequences, he was " cold as ice". The professor, therefore, is old, lonely, and has an empty existence.

How does one find oneself out of that miserable situation? There are three means through which the old man is redeemed. Firstly, the dream sequences serve to warn him of death, which, considering that the man is 78, could come any day. The dream sequences also point out to him just how detached he is from other human beings. In a fantastic scene, he is given a test, which he fails. The point is clear enough: he might be a professor and doctor, but that is nothing if he does not have an understanding of human beings, their emotions and feelings. Secondly, the flashbacks serve to remind him of a time when he was connected with others, as well as of times when he was disconnected from his wife and others. The beautiful scenes of his childhood are marvelously retold, with everyone well dressed in white, and the entire family engaging with each other. Only he is absent, standing in the dark at the threshold, an old man staring at the happy ghosts of the past mingling before him. Lastly, the three young people the professor meets, especially the wonderful Sonia, connect with him on a deeply emotional and innocent level. The girl looks like, and has the same name as, the Sonia who rejected the professor in favour of his brother when he was young. You can interpret this in any way you like, but I think it's obvious that we see here a kind of second chance. In the car, the professor asks Sonia which of the two young men she likes the most. She does not answer firmly. At the end of the film, as the three bid him goodbye, she tells the professor that she loves him the most of all. He brushes it off, but once he gets in bed, there is a great smile on his face. The smile no doubt is a reaction to the whole day's events, but I'm certain that one big reason for his happiness at the end is that Sonia finally chose him, after having rejected him so long ago.

What is the overall message of this film? As with all great films, there is no one right answer. What is certain, however, is that Bergman gives us a view of the world that is neither wholly pessimistic nor wholly optimistic, because it is so painfully real. The characters in this film have been bruised. They are broken, and seek a way out of their situation. There is no indication in the film that Bergman suggests that a solution will solve all the problems. Rather, any change for the better can only come once we engage with the past. Through an understanding of our past and our self, we can add a new sense of our self to what the past given. If we can achieve that, through whatever means necessary, then we can be redeemed. In fact, that understanding of ourselves is itself a kind of redemption. Bergman's world is one in which hope is always possible. It can happen to an unsuspecting 78 year old man, and it can happen to us. It is never too late. Every day in our life is a new chance to make something better of ourselves.

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One of the very, very best
ian_harris11 December 2002
Quite simply one of the very, very best movies I have ever seen. Saw it recently for the second time, some 15 to 20 years after seeing it for the first time. First time round I was the age and stage of the traveling youngsters and saw the world through their eyes. This time I could identify more with the son and daughter-in-law characters with just as much conviction. The subtlety and sophistication of this movie defy description. It simply has to be seen to be believed. If you've never seen it, don't just sit there, go see the movie.
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A gem among the history of movies
manjits21 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Ingmer Bergman's films are usually about what's happening inside the mind of a character, rather than in the outside world, and Wild Strawberries is a classic of the genre.

The story in the conventional sense is almost nonexistent, and I have no qualms about spilling whatever there is. In any case, it's only my version of the story.

A 78-year old doctor is to be honored on the 50th anniversary of his graduation from the university. The old man's day is normally filled either recalling his dreams while asleep, most of them he is unable to comprehend, or day-dreaming about the girl he loved in his youth, who ditched him to marry his brother. It's no different on the day of coronation, when he is traveling to the university accompanied by his daughter-in-law, estranged from his son.

Significantly, he never day-dreams about his wife he lived with till her death. Occasionally, when she does appear in his dreams, he is guilt-ridden to find himself devoid of any feelings for her other than lust.

During the journey, his daughter-in-law confides in him, that his 38-year old son is cold, detached, selfish and vainly principled - traits she observes in him as well as his 95-year old mother they meet on the way. The old man has loaned an undisclosed sum of money to his son, and in spite of son desperately needing money, and old man having no use for it, both father and son insist on returning the money as a matter of principle. Although feeling sorry for his son not enjoying life in his prime, just like himself, he feels himself absolved of any guilt feelings - it's in the genes - and goes back to day-dreaming of the girl he loved but lost.

It's a film pleasing to the senses - B&W cinematography is exceptionally beautiful, the background score is haunting and nostalgic. As a character study of old age, it's pioneering. Ingmer Bergman is one of the purists of the cinema, who has not compromised the least bit in any of his movies. He, along with few others notably Robert Bresson and Werner Herzog, has made cinema the art form within 100 years of its origin. Bergman's Wild Strawberries (and Seventh Seal) are among the gems.
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A Contrarian View
fred3f31 October 2008
As I look at all the 10 star reviews that others have given this film I wonder if I am being foolhardy in daring to say something to the contrary. I am and have been for many years a Bergman fan. I eagerly saw most of his films as they were released. I love nearly all of them - this one being an exception. Certainly the film is worth seeing - any Bergman film is. But this one is often cited as his best, and there I would strongly disagree. It is about an academic and although professor Borg has to face some of his demons, he comes out on top in then end. I understand why this film is so popular. Academics see themselves in professor Borg and academics have a lot of influence on what is considered art and what isn't. Borg ends up looking good at the end of the film, and academics, although they have their faults like anyone else, like to think that they are worthy of the respect that their position commands. In many, many cases they are - and this is not a diatribe against academics. I just think that Bergman let this character off too easily, particularly when you compare the way he treats his other characters in movies like "The Hour of the Wolf", "The Silence", "Shame" and so on. He plumbs the depths of the soul and takes no prisoners. "Wild Strawberries" starts out that way, when the professor flashes back to the key points in his life where he turned away from love, life and reality in favor of academic honor. But ultimately Bergman backs down. The professor, having seen the errors of a lifetime in a few short hours, is shown to be wiser and a better man now as he receives his honorary award. Bergman does not do this in his other films. For me this gives a certain falsity to "Wild Strawberries" that I don't see in "Persona" for example. Well, everyone will probably disagree with me, - this is such an acclaimed film - but sometimes it is valuable to hear a contrarian opinion even when you don't agree with it.
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Excellent Movie from the Master
VictorFrankenstein26 April 2007
Grim Drama deals with an old man (Victor Sjostrom) who is on his way to get an honorary doctorate degree after 50 years as a doctor. He is accompanied by his daughter-in-law (Ingrid Thulin). The trip becomes a relicing of the old man's life as he realizes he led an empty life due to his stuffiness , egotism and inability to really love and feel. Nightmares, dreams and reminiscences are expertly blended as space and time are broken to work on the various levels on the man's thoughts.

Picture sometimes talks too much in philosophical asides, but it remains a searching pictorial analysis of a man's life. Expert directorial touches and notations of director Ingmar Bergman, and the dignified miming of oldtime director Sjostrom, plus other fine thespic additions, make this an offbeater. It's a personal and profound work.
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Sokrates said it, and a certain Ingmar Bergman too
rogierr1 August 2001
What a pleasant surprise after seeing the dark 'The Seventh Seal', 'Autumn Sonata' and 'Fanny and Alexander'. Maybe I'm just not a fan of Sven Nykvist. Surrealist instances and magic realism make 'Wild Strawberries' lighter and at least as memorable as 'the Seventh Seal', which was made in the same year. As a fan of Luis Bunuel I think I can say that Bunuel must have liked these two masterpieces, although here is less humour and less shocking moments than in any of his own films and Bunuel hated family values. But we already knew from Swedish people that they have less temperament than the Spanish.

Victor Sjostrom and 'The Wind' (1928) have been mentioned, so I will not do that again here, but cinematographer Gunnar Fischer was a also a crucial mind behind the success of this film which is at least visually unforgettable and a directorial milestone. The screenplay of the Seventh Seal is obviously superior, but also a bit more heavy-handed than this eclectic film.

Is a honorary degree more important than family memories or family values? What do you learn from life if you spend it studying it? These are the questions that I would like to ask many academics by recommending to them this film. After all, questions are more important than answers. Sokrates said it, and a certain Ingmar Bergman too.

10 points out of 10 :-)
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Bergman's WILD STRAWBERRIES Stunning on DVD
blue-715 August 2002
Ingmar Bergman's WILD STRAWBERRIES, on the Criterion DVD version, is nothing short of stunning. Picture, sound and English Subtitles have never been as fine as seen here. Having viewed this 1957 film during its first U.S. release in 1959, when I was 21 years-old, it was quite involving to return to it 43 years later. Like the Professor of the story, I too often reflect upon choice made along lifes path and wonder what might have been if different choices had been made. Victor Sjostron as Proffesor Isak Borg gives the performance of a life-time! What a magnificent face this man had! Bergman films can be quite dark and depressing, but his THE SEVENTH SEAL and WILD STRAWBERRIES are marvelous, thought-provoking dramas that lift the spirit. BEWARE: There are two other DVD releases, one from Asia and one from Brazil -- but neither of these have been cleaned up like the Criterion version. The sound for instance -- I have seen the dream sequence at the beginning of the film when the Professor walks through empty streets, sees handless clocks, a carriage carrying a casket with his body -- a scene with almost complete silence,BUT prints on 16mm, VHS and even Laser Disc all contain a great deal of surface noise. In the Criterion version, the silence is almost complete. And the picture is perfection -- blacks & whites that sparkle and no film blemishes or dirt-- a picture that is a wonder to behold. Peter Cowie's Commentary is outstanding and very worth while. The 90 Documentary from Swedish Television, INGMAR BERGMAN ON LIFE AND WORK is quite fascinating. Bergman, then in his early 80's, is very articulate and thoughtful in his discussion. Over the years Bergman has come to the conclusion that when we die we are no more -- and he has stated that conclusion gives him great peace. BUT his conversation in this documentary puts a wrinkle in his conclusion. He speaks of his final marriage to a woman for over 20 years and of her passing. He can not believe that SHE does not exist anymore. He often has the feeling that she is near him and that she still influences decisions he makes. He can accept not being for himself but not for her. Bergman is getting closer to the truth then he realizes. . . death is not the end -- but only the beginning. When he finally passes from this early life and finds that he still "is" -- I wonder if he'll wish he could change the focus of his later film work. Be that as it may -- WILD STRAWBERRIES and THE SEVENTH SEAL are two of the finest films of the last century -- in my humble opinion.
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A Nice Old Man Just Can't Catch a Break
disinterested_spectator2 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers
There seems to be a consensus that Isak is lonely and isolated because he is cold and aloof. Actually, he does not seem so bad. He is friendly enough with other people, and he appears to be content with his relatively solitary existence. Anyway, Sara, the woman he loved when he was young, married his brother, and somehow that was Isak's fault, because he was cold and aloof. And Karin, the woman he ended up being married to, cuckolded him, but that was also Isak's fault, because he was cold and aloof. He visits his mother, who is cold and aloof. His son Evald is cold and aloof.

I suppose the point is that he should have been warm and accessible, and then Sara would have married him and they would have lived happily ever after. Or Karin would have been faithful to him and they would have lived happily ever after. And they would have raised their son Evald to be warm and accessible, so that he and his wife Marianne could have lived happily ever after. And being warm and accessible, Evald would have been happy to hear that Marianne was pregnant, so that they would have a child of their own, whom they could raise to be warm and accessible.

Having seen the error of his ways, Isak decides that he will henceforth become warm and accessible. Better late than never. So, he asks Agda, his maid of forty years, if she would like to be on a first-name basis. She rebuffs him.
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A magnificent film
apmahd31 December 2006
In "Smultronstallet", the elderly professor Isak Borg, on his way to receive an honorary degree, uses the journey to discover and understand himself and the effect he has had on others. The action converts past and present, reality and fantasy, the present harshly and starkly lit, the earlier memories more relaxed and lyrical as if, for an old man, the past - that other country - was better than the time and place he inhabits now. Each new character, each reminiscence as it springs up in the mind of professor reveals something new about him - his failings, his shortcomings, the reasons why, in his apparently successful and honored old age, he is alone and lonely. This is, admittedly, an uneven film, verbally over explicit, but it is packed with vivid imagery - an early dream sequence, both mysterious and yet significant; a disenchanted couple squabbling fiercely in a car; the sad beauty of Marianne, unhappy daughter-in-law; the words, memories and gestures of professor's mother; the distancing effect produced by the device of having the professor visiting his own past unseen by those who shared it with him; the meeting with Akerman. It is a sombre, striking work, uncompromising in its examination of the protagonist and Victor Sjostrom, in his last screen role, is splendid. For me, this film is the proof for to believe Ingmar Bergman the best best European director of the last century.
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One of the most beautiful films
jameskinsman27 December 2005
Ostensibly simple on first analysis, Wild Strawberries, alongside the work of Bresson, Dreyers Le Passion De Jeanne D'Arc and Murnau's Sunrise, is one of those very special, transcendent assets of cinema able to inspire us in a deep and spiritual way. Bergman's achievement to tell a heartfelt story with a very human message juxtaposed with image after image of stunning beauty is something so rare and so very remarkable. I wont go into a deep analysis of this beautiful masterpiece, as many other users on here have done so. All I will do is simply describe one of the films most lyrically sublime scenes.

Near the end of the film, as Isak Borg lies in bed, his son asks him how his heart is (meaning his physical health). Being a doctor of considerable talent and having a tradition of being practical and sensible in his work, you would expect him to tell his son of his failing health. However after his subsequent journey, both physical and spiritual, his attentions are now turned toward his emotional and spiritual well being, a part of himself he has neglected for many years. He simply replies that his heart is fine, and that he is happy and content. In this single moment, we understand that Isak has reached a moment of catharsis, but it also tells us something about every one of us. We strive constantly for physical wealth and materialistic products of our lives and jobs, but we must remember the simple but extremely rewarding pleasures that determine the happiest of individuals.
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Thoughtful & Thought-Provoking
Snow Leopard12 November 2002
Thoughtful and thought-provoking, this Ingmar Bergman classic will probably mean different things to different viewers. The deceptively simple story introduces you to characters who are not wholly sympathetic, yet whom you cannot help but care about. It shows their lives to be rather drab for the most part, yet it also brings out how important the events in their lives are to the characters themselves.

The story of old Professor Borg driving across Sweden to attend a ceremony in his honor is complemented by just the right measure of dream sequences and flashbacks to his youth, which put the doctor's life into perspective and raise the questions that Bergman wants his viewers to think about. The youthful memories, and the symbols they use, often strike an immediate chord whether you can personally relate to them or not. The dreams are suitably weird without being overblown, and they are always pertinent. All of this is a difficult balance to maintain, and Bergman had a masterful restraint that most film-makers lack, especially today. He trusts his viewers to pay attention, and he wants the emphasis to remain on the important themes, where it should be, and not on cinematic artifice. Of course, "Wild Strawberries" also benefits enormously from Victor Sjöström's excellent lead performance, with considerable help from the rest of the cast as well.

Since it has little action and little pretense, but much substance, this is the kind of movie that might never be widely popular. But it is a worthwhile experience that will mean something - not always the same thing - to anyone who gives it the attention that it deserves.
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An almost mythical-style film
Agent109 May 2002
I watched this film for a class, and virtually everyone groaned over the development. I was the only one with an open mind, and I was thankful for such a condition of spirit. While this film was at times slow, the morphing of different worlds created quite an experience, one which was spiritual and eerie. The dream sequences were amazing, examining the doctor's state of mind through the use of imagery and allegorical conventions. A good film for anyone to experience, and you get to Max von Sydow as a young man.
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