Friday, 11 June 2010

Wild Strawberries [1957]


Often recognized, along with The Seventh Seal, as Swedish maestro Ingmar Bergman’s most iconic work, and perhaps among his most accessible films, Wild Strawberries certainly ranks as a landmark cinematic achievement. Compassion, warm-heartedness and a strong sense of humanism runs through this deeply philosophical treatise on the difficult process of ageing and man’s inherent inability to completely move on from his past disillusionments. Isak Borg, an elderly medical professor on his way to receive an honorary degree from his alma mater, is a man ridden with guilt and disappointment – principally for matters relating to the heart and relationships. Thus his road journey along with his daughter-in-law Marianne turns out to be less a physical one and more a surreal, even symbolic, travel through the memories of his childhood, nightmares, fears, trampled dreams, unrequited love, emotional turmoil, regrets, his Freudian obsession with death, and his familial failures, finally achieving a small sense of peace with himself at the end of the road. The film is carried by the towering performance of celebrated Scandinavian director Victor Sjostrom as the egotistic but sympathetic Isak, with a fascinating supporting turn by Ingrid Thulin as the beautiful but emotionally troubled Marianne. The complex, disturbing dream sequences are alone worth their weight in gold.








Director: Ingmar Bergman
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Surreal Drama/Family Drama/Road Movie
Language: Swedish
Country: Sweden

8 comments:

Sam Juliano said...

Yes, Sjostrom did deliver a "towering" performance, and this philosophical, humanist work is among Bergman's supreme masterpieces, and one of the cinema's crowning achievements. The opening 'dream' sequence is one that is studied over and over in film classes, and the use of the clock with no hands has it's most powerful transcription in this film. There's a deep poignancy and lyricism in the strawberry patch scenes, but the film's underpinnings are of sadness and regreat.

I must tell you Shubhajit, that even as I write this modest response here, I am getting chills up my neck. Just to think of this film leaves a profound effect on me. It's corny I know, but it is genuine.

A beautifully penned and informed piece.

Shubhajit said...

Sam, thank you very much for sharing your enthusiasm and love for this arthouse masterpiece from Bergman. The opening dream sequence, with the clock with no hands and where he has a deja vu of his own death, is filled with stunning imagery.

Even the elongated dream sequence where he finds himself unable of answering any question related to the medical field and later sees the reason of the breakdown of his marriage with his late wife, is also something to behold.

And yet, in discussing the powerful and frightening dream sequences, and Sjostrom's towering performance, one must also not overlook Thulin's equally layered turn - something she would repeat with devastating effect in Cries & Whispers.

Thanks again Sam.

Drew said...

Fantastic review here, Shubhajit. Bergman is one of the heavy hitters whom I probably haven't seen nearly as much as I should, however I did finally give this one a watch a year or so ago. Your descriptions are incredibly on-point, "Warm-heartedness" and "strong sense of humanism" really convey the gentle yet hefty effect this wonderful film has. I was also completely blown away by the dream sequences as well, they rank right up there along Bunuel in their haunting capabilities. Fantastic writing.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks a lot Drew for the appreciation. Well, Bergman was a mental hurdle for me till even sometime back. But then I decided to face it headlong, and know what, I'm really finding a knack for his work. As you aptly said, the film does club both the "gentle" and the "hefty" quite seamlessly. Planning to give a shot at Fanny & Alexander for my next Bergman-viewing.

MovieMan0283 said...

An excellent movie, with a palpable sensual air about its nostalgic sequences - though in the end Seventh Seal & Virgin Spring are probably my favorites from this era in Bergman's career. One slight hitch with the film is that Sjostrom seems so sympathetic! Though he's a bit aloof and haughty, it's hard for us to see him as the monster so many of his relatives treat him as. I think Bergman himself once commented on this...

Ever since Allan's countdown, I've been seeing a lot of Sjostrom's silents; a wonderfully talented director as well as actor...

Shubhajit said...

Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm for this Bergman masterpiece. Sjostrom's character seemed sympathetic to me as well. Seventh Seal however didn't affect me as much as did affected you and numerous others. I loved Cries & Whispers a lot. Though there are so many more Bergman classics that I'm yet to see, I've already developed an inclination towards his works.

Anonymous said...

Frankly speaking, this is one of those ludicrous reviews of a great artwork that reeks of vacuous inttelctualism. Very clever in adjectifying things. Only one thing this review has got right is that it crafts these statements of convictions than following a ritual of analytical formalism.

Pure rubbish.

Shubhajit said...

Mr./Ms. Anonymous (I hope you have a name, though): Thanks for the kind words; much obliged.