Wild Strawberries (1957)

Wild Strawberries (Smultronstället)wild-strawberries
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Written by Ingmar Bergman
1957/Sweden
Svensk Filmindustri
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
#334 of 1001 Films You Must See Before You Die

Professor Isak Borg: If I have been feeling worried or sad during the day, I have a habit of recalling scenes from childhood to calm me. So it was this evening.

I have loved this every time I have seen it.  And every time I see it, it seems like a different movie.

Isaac Borg (Viktor Sjöström) is a 78-year-old widower.  He lives alone with his equally aged housekeeper Miss Agda.  This particular day he is to receive an honorary doctorate celebrating his 50 years as a respected physician.  He decides to take his time and drive to Lund from Stockholm in his ancient limousine.  His daughter-in-law Marianne (Ingrid Thulin) asks to accompany him.  She wants to see his son Evald (Gunnar Bjoörnstrand), whom she left several days previously.  Isaac and Marianne do not enjoy a warm relationship.Wild-Strawberries-1957-e1413127776657

We see the day in flashback as Isaac is writing in a journal.  Despite the honor he is to receive, his life seems to him to have been wasted and not really lived.  He spends much of the day having disturbing dreams and fantasies and learning hard truths.  His sadness is lightened by three young hitchhikers who join him en route.  With Bibi Andersson in a dual role as one of the hitchhikers and Isaac’s lost love Sara.

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Somehow this has always struck me as a cold, sad movie.  On this viewing, however, it seemed positively redemptive.  Age may have something to do with it.  Now learning something about oneself and the possibility of even small changes seems hugely significant.

I probably don’t need to gush on and on about the beauty of this masterpiece.  I’ve always preferred The Seventh Seal but now I am not so sure.  Sjöström is completely fantastic in it.  I love his occasional childlike wistfulness.  My highest recommendation.

Wild Strawberries was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen.

Three reasons to watch – Criterion Collection

10 thoughts on “Wild Strawberries (1957)

  1. I really, really need to rewatch this. I can imagine that it does seem like a different film on every watch. There’s a lot here to unpack and I don’t think that I got half of what is here.

  2. I used to go back and forth on whether Wild Strawberries or The Seventh Seal was my favorite Bergman film. Or Winter Light. Or The Silence. Or The Virgin Spring. Or Sawdust and Tinsel. And it just gets harder now that I’ve seen The Magician and From the Life of the Marionettes!
    Nowadays, I find it easier to say Smiles of a Summer Night.
    I’m getting my mom to watch more foreign classics. I tell her when something really good is on TCM. The results have been mixed. She loved Throne of Blood. But she didn’t think too much of Wild Strawberries. She seemed to be watching it in ten-minute segments. For weeks, I’d be talking to her on the phone and she’d say “I saw a little bit more of That Strawberry Movie.” I’m usually pretty good at not getting too mad at my mom for her bizarre perspectives but I was barely able to keep my tongue when she said Ingrid Thulin is a terrible actress. And I also didn’t think there was any need to talk that way about Bibi Andersson’s character!
    I think Bergman should have made a movie with Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Thulin and Bib Andersson called Wild Strawberry Blondes.

    • I’d pay to see that movie! I’m proud of your mother for sticking with it. I’m excited to have so much more Bergman to look forward to. Have you seen Shame? That’s a powerful one.

    • I certainly liked Wild Strawberries more on this viewing than ever before. Shame is so sad but so devastating. Fortunately, I have a lot of Bergman still to see.

      • I even like obscure Bergman a lot. If TCM shows any Bergman at all, I am there! So I’ve been lucky enough to see The Devil’s Eye and Dreams and Autumn Sonata over the last two or three years in addition to films like Summer with Monika and Cries and Whispers and Scenes from a Marriage.
        The only Bergman films I felt negative about were Persona and Hour of the Wolf. I think I might have been in the wrong mood for them. I’ve been thinking about watching them both again in the future.

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