Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)

12Mar10

In the opening scene of Wild Strawberries, Isak Borg, the film’s main character, writes in his diary about how he has become withdrawn from other people in his old age, and increasingly sees ‘social intercourse’ as nothing more than half-hearted discussions about the behavior and actions of others. A picture is thus painted immediately of a man who embodies loneliness and isolationism. When he has a horrifying dream that night in which he sees a faceless man, handless clock, and finally his own corpse dragging himself into his grave, the tone is set for a reflective time, in which we expect Isak to become nostalgic about his life in the face of impending death. And this is indeed what we see.

Isak spends the film traveling to Lund to receive his honorary degree, accompanied primarily by his daughter-in-law, who is brutally honest in telling her father that she and her husband consider him selfish and egotistical. Having lived in the region all his life, Isak stops off at a house where he spent his years as a youth, and has hallucinations of the moments that defined his love-life, which is reinforced further by the arrival of a hitchhiker, who reminds him greatly of the woman he was meant to marry. The memory trip continues, albeit slowly. This is a careful examination of a man’s attitude to his life in the face of his mortality that he has suddenly become conscious of. It’s deep, touching stuff, even for me at this age. How powerful it may seem in one’s later years is hard to imagine.

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