Wild Strawberries (Smultronstallet)

Wild Strawberries

I’ll remember.

And here we are; the final Ingmar Bergman film left on the list for me. It’s been a good while since my last Bergman, and it probably would’ve served me better had I just seen this when I went on a Bergman kick over half a year ago, but some part of me didn’t want to say farewell to a director who’s work I particularly enjoyed, so I guess it was my own damn fault. Nevertheless, I went through a mental Cliff’s Notes of Bergman’s work, and popped in Wild Strawberries as prepared as I was ever going to be. Once again, I needn’t have worried; the Bergman touch is on full display here, and I daresay this may be his most personable and moving work.

The film stars famed Swedish director/actor Victor Sjostrom (you might know him for The Phantom Carriage) in his final role as aging professor Isak Borg, who after getting notice that he is to receive an honorary award at his alma mater, embarks upon a trip there, during which he reminisces and daydreams about his life and his experiences, and what kind of a person he’s been. If the plot sounds slightly familiar, you’re not crazy; Deconstructing Harry has almost exactly the same plot – fitting since Woody Allen has cited Bergman as among his great influences, and it shows. There is a lot more overexposure in this film than I remember Bergman using; a lot more whites instead of blacks, especially in the fantasy sequences. Not that Bergman was overly dark, but he knew how to use the black-and-white palette very well; here, he tips a little too far toward one side of the scale. One big problem I had was the lack of background noise during the car scenes; they are eerily quiet as a result, and it creates a giant disconnect between the viewer’s immersion and what is up on screen. I can understand Bergman’s decision to keep the audio strictly adherent to the actors, but it unfortunately means the film dips into uncanny valley territory, and I never really got over it as the film went on.

Now, fair warning; this film has a lot of the old professor talking, mostly to his daughter-in-law and the various characters that hop in and out of their car, and recalling his memories, which are varied and kinetic enough to hold interest, so if that sounds especially boring to you, I doubt Wild Strawberries will do much to change your opinion. But for me, that was the selling point; it is all about this man, who he is and who he was, and what he’s gone through to make him into the man he is today, and how he can always change for the better. It is unquestionably one of Bergman’s most optimistic works, and because of it I enjoyed it a great deal. I can only wonder what I might’ve thought of it had I viewed it along with all the other Bergman films from the list, but I have a good feeling my opinion won’t have been much different. This is almost certainly in the running for my personal favorite Bergman film, and Ive got a good feeling most of you who take the time to watch this one will be at least half as pleased as I was, though again, as long as dialogue-based plot and characterization isn’t one of your pet peeves. I’m glad this made the list, and this is another film that makes me glad I am watching the list, as I probably wouldn’t have seen this film otherwise, so good on Bergman for this one.

Arbitrary Rating: 8/10


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