Top 100 Films #25 – Wild Strawberries (1957)

 

1200#25. Wild Strawberries (1957)
Directed by: Ingmar Bergman
Written by: Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Victor Sjostrom, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Bjornstrand

Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries is the film that introduced me to international cinema, and showed me just how powerful foreign-language films could be.  It was my first Bergman film, and immediately hooked me and turned me into a lifelong fan.  I saw Wild Strawberries at the perfect (or possibly the unfortunate) time in my life – I had just begun my fight with anxiety and depression, and for the first time I could truly relate to a character on screen. Wild Strawberries follows an aging professor named Isak Borg (Victor Sjostrom), who has learned that he will be honored with a jubilee doctorate award fifty years after his graduation from school.  Borg sets off on the long trip to the awards ceremony with his pregnant daughter-in-law Marianne (Ingrid Thulin).  Along the way, Isak begins to reevaluate and reassess his life and his own decisions – brought on by a series of nightmares and daydreams.  His increased sense of mortality combined with run-ins with several hitchhikers leads to Isak having a far more interesting road trip than he ever expected.  Wild Strawberries is chock full of Ingmar Bergman’s famous themes of death, mortality, life, and age, with the main conflict in the film being a man’s own existential crisis.  Bergman employs the use of atmospheric dream and nightmare sequences, giving much of the film a thick, uneasy tone.  The dream sequences are incredibly well-realized and haunting, with the most memorable coming early on in the film and involving Isak having a run-in with Death.  The film’s emotional payoff is absolutely worth the often bizarre and surreal journey, turning Wild Strawberries into one of the most beautiful and poignant movies Ingmar Bergman ever made.  The film inspired another of my favorite filmmakers, Woody Allen, and its influence can be felt in many of his best films, including Stardust Memories, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and Deconstructing Harry. Though all those films are excellent in their own regards, none of them come close to the masterpiece that is Wild Strawberries – one of the very best films from one of the all-time great directors.  Wild Strawberries certainly isn’t an easy watch, but viewers brave enough to tackle its heavy subject matter will find solace in its incredible finale.

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