Wild Strawberries, Blu-ray (1957/2013)Director: Ingmar Bergman Cast: Victor Sjostrom, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Bjornstrand Studio: Janus Films/ The Criterion Collection 139 [6/11/13] Video: 1.33:1 for 4:3 B&W Audio: Swedish PCM mono Subtitles: English Extras: Commentary track by film scholar Peter Cowie, Short intro by Ingmar Bergman, “Ingmar Bergman on Life and Work” 90-min. documentary by Jörn Donner, Behind-the-scenes footage shot by Bergman, Printed booklet with excellent essay by film writer Mark Le Fanu Length: 92 minutes Rating: *****
Coming a year after his masterful The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries is one of the greats among Bergman’s over 50 films. He had in mind the man considered the father of Swedish cinema, Victor Sjostrom, whose The Phantom Carriage so affected Bergman (and which we reviewed).
But Bergman was actually surprised when the aged Sjostrom agreed to do it. Playing an elderly retired family doctor, the character—Professor Isak Borg—faces the good and bad of his past, often via some of the most affecting dream sequences in modern film. His fantasies and nightmares are part of his journey of self-discovery. The contrasts of different generations are portrayed, in both Isak’s fantasies and dreams and also in the strained relationship of his only son and wife, in the trio of teenagers picked up by Sjostrom, and the married couple that almost crash into Isak’s old car as he drives to Lund to be honored for his lifework in medicine.
While the characters sometimes accuse one another of serious faults, there is a feeing of great humanism about the film as a whole. The little spats between Isak and his longtime housekeeper are often hilarious, and they sort of patch things up in the end. The arguments between the two male admirers of the young female teenager—one studying to be a minister and the other an opinionated atheist—are shown with gusto, and the scene with several of them at an outdoor luncheon each reciting some lines of a well-known Swedish poem are most moving, even if we are unfamiliar with the poem. Ingrid Thulin is most beautiful, as always.
It was a pleasure to see the gorgeous black & white cinematography of this Bergman film in the masterful restoration by Criterion. The wide range of grey scale reminded me of Ansel Adams’ still photography. I’ve seen the documentary in the extras before, and as I recall it is well done and interesting.