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Wild Strawberries

Ingmar Bergman's 1957 film Wild Strawberries is a gem I'd been meaning to see for ages. I'd read about how much influence it's had on other films and directors, Woody Allen for one, and how some consider it to be Bergman's best. Though I didn't know what to expect, and the English title is misleading. According to Wikipedia, the Swedish title, Smultronstället, means "wild strawberry patch" and carries with it the impression of some charming place of sentimental value. Surely a more accurate title than the English translation, which had me thinking I was about to watch a bunch of crazy teenagers screwing around.

What it's actually about is Professor Isak Borg (played superbly by Victor Sjöström), a self-centered grouchy old man and self-proclaimed pedant. With his daughter-in-law, played perfectly by the beautiful Ingrid Thulin, he sets off by car from Stockholm to receive an honorary degree from Lund University. Along the way he's awoken to his past and who he has become, an awakening sparked throughout by surreal dreams, sweet reveries, and those he and Marianne pick up along the way, including a hitchhiker who reminds him of a love long ago and a couple trapped in their loathful marriage, reminiscent of his own before the death of his wife. There's little telling here; Bergman is too tuned in for that—to the subtleties and significance of showing a story. Clear too is the stark contrast between sequences (in terms of mood, how the scenes are shot, dialogue, etc.) unfurling the story in fresh and unexpected ways with each, and calling to mind some of Fellini's work. I've never much cared for the word moving, but this one is. For it's distinctive texture and performances, it's a film to watch again.


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