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Better Late Than Never: 'Wild Strawberries' (1957)


The Guys from {FILM} is a discussion on movies and films from all eras and genres

Better Late Than Never: 'Wild Strawberries' (1957)

Shaun Cordingley

 I see that it has been a very long time since we have talked in the {FILM} section here at, and I think that may be because we do often spend a great deal of time talking about film on The Guys From {PODCAST}, so I thought I would start by bringing our "Better Late Than Never" series, with Ingmar Bergman's 1957 film Wild Strawberries

Bergman is one of those directors that I imagine anyone with even a slight interest in film has heard of, but in most conversations, I discover that very few people have actually seen one of his movies (and if they have, it's usually The Seventh Seal, which usually is told to me as "I saw part of that one where that guy plays chess with Death"). I understand this, as I would suggest that Bergman is the...easiest filmmaker to get started on (...he's not Frederico Fellini, but...). However, rather than getting caught up in that, or wandering into me talking about Werner Herzog, what about Wild Strawberries?

Wild Strawberries is about an aging professor Isak Borg(played by the father of Swedish film, Director/Actor Victor Sjöström, one of Bergman's mentors) who over the course of a car journey from Stockholm to Lund in order to get an honorary degree, is forced to confront his past regrets, joys, and the way he has treated those around him through a series of dreams and flashbacks. This sounds like it could be a rather dour affair, but what happens (thanks in large part to absolutely brilliant casting, particularly the 78 year old Sjöström) is over the course of an hour and a half, you are treated into seeing a man finding not only himself (and not particularly liking what he sees, especially in the people around him), but also a beautifully introspective film. 

Check out the trailer here: 

Aside from the performances, I think that Wild Strawberries is an example of film at it's absolute best: there are many occasions (especially in films that try and tackle introspection) moments where the camera could turn away, or shift our focus away from the matter at hand, but chooses to stay completely clear on what it is we are supposed to be taking away from the moment--as we as the audience explore Borg's memories, we are seeing them with him, as he sees them, and that is part of what tends to make the situations so emotional for the viewer. Watching him re-live things that, if they happened to you, you would never want to re-live, and then seeing him as a character grow from that introspection is really lovely, while being trapped in nightmares (even though you know it is just a nightmare), but seeing Borg's interior life reflecting and shifting on his exterior is really quite stunning. 

I've made all of that sound quite fancy, but the fact of the matter is, Wild Strawberries may be one of the easiest Ingmar Bergman films for non-film aficionados to jump in with: the story and action are clear, the acting is spectacular, we do not journey into a dense amount of symbolism, the film is a peaceful, thoughtful, and often melancholic look at a life that, was not particularly well-lived, but in review, may be starting to change as an effort to help those around him. 

I generally try and point out anything that I did not care for when I write these "Better Late Than Never" features, but in Wild Strawberries there is practically nothing I can add here. There was a nightmare sequence that I felt went on a little too long in the middle of the film, but that may just be because I felt I had gotten the point (from a character standpoint), or because it was uncomfortable as I had already come to care for the aged professor. 
The film is in Swedish, so I suppose if you hate subtitles than you may have a problem with this film, but my fondness for subs is well documented throughout, so that never really crosses my mind. 

In the end, Wild Strawberries is a film that I think everyone with an interest in film must see; it is one of the all-time greats firing on all cylinders and delivering one of the best movies you will probably ever watch, and one of the very best examples of film as an art form.

-S (@Shauncord)