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Wild Strawberries

The perfection of Wild Strawberries is enhanced by its isolation in Ingmar Bergman’s work. As a film of love, it has uniquely at its centre the peacefully unselfish performance of Victor Sjostrom, grand old man of Swedish silent cinema, before whose presence lesser matters of doubt and despair could be allowed to fade away. It’s theme, as had been the case for so much of Bergman’s work in the 1950s, is the coherence of family relationships. Lonely Professor Isak Borg (Sjostrom) finds the solution to his problem of death-in-life in a pilgrimage through the territory he knew as a young man. In the evocation of the family birthday party, in the memory of his parents by a summer lakeside, he discovers the love that slipped so long ago out of his own marriage and made it empty.
The bitter existence of the Almans (the squabbling couple rescued from the roadside for a brief, noisy ride in Borg’s car), the glacial quality of the junior Borg with his empty marriage, even the shell that is now Borg’s ancient mother, these are Bergman’s ruthless indications of the consequences of conducting lives without the release of genuine affection. He offsets them by means of Max von Sydow’s cheerful garage hand, Bibi Andersson’s extrovert seeker after the ideal match, and Ingrid Thulin’s radiant wife. When the Professor’s own parents, rediscovered at last at the sunlit water’s edge, wave in placid welcome, we might just believe that it’s enough to have been part of one generation rather than having to survive to be part of the next. That stretch of water separating Isak from his past, however, still has to be crossed before, with a smile, the Professor can rest.
(Sweden, 1958. English subtitles. Black and white. 95 mins.) New 35mm print.

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