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Bergman's classic takes on new life thanks to this sumptuous Criterion Blu-ray upgrade....
Criterion / 92 Minutes / 1957 / Unrated / Street Date: June 11, 2013
The image of wild strawberries brings to mind innocence, pleasure, and discovery. So this film’s title would seem to indicate an upbeat subject matter, except for the fact that this is an Ingmar Bergman film. His work is not always dark and dreary, but more often than not they are quite somber. One of the things that Sweden is known for is its high suicide rate, and that seems to be reflected in the rather depressing tone of many of its most noted cinematic products (the recent Songs from the Second Floor being a perfect example). Yet I always take great pleasure in viewing a Bergman film, probably because his films often feature very sympathetic characters and are very enlightening in their examination of life and death.
Death is certainly at the forefront of Bergman's Wild Strawberries. The main character, Professor Isak Borg, is an older man whose finest years are behind him. Actually, the adjective "fine" might be the wrong word. For Borg has led a disappointing life. Sure, his professional life has been an unqualified success, but his personal life has been hollow and joyless. The film opens in Borg's home. Borg's wife has long since died, and his only regular company is his housekeeper and a rather large dog. It is a special day for Borg, since in a few hours he will be receiving an honorary degree at a school several hours away. Borg sets off in his car, accompanied by his daughter-in-law, who has become estranged from her husband.
This apparently conventional plot, that of a talky road movie involving several characters, is turned on its head by the dreams and flashbacks that haunt Borg during his journey. Many of the characters (but purposefully not all) are at odds with one another, and Borg is even at odds with himself. You can cut the tension with a knife. The offbeat, disturbing dreams would have made even Luis Buñuel proud. The film's depth and subtle complexity make it ideal for viewing repeatedly. Bergman made some interesting casting choices, and if you are not good with faces you might miss some revealing doppelgangers. The acting is incredible, led by Victor Sjöström as Isak Borg.