Movie Reviews, Commentary & More

Wild Strawberries - Movie Review

The reputation precedes the man. Ingmar Bergman, the Swedish director who recently passed away, was celebrated during his time and is still a source of inspiration to many great cinema artistes. Cinema intellectuals experience orgasmic shivers in dissecting his metaphors and ascribing meaning to seemingly ununderstandable sequences. Woody Allen said something like this: for any director to have made any one of Bergman's movies would have been a career highpoint. 'Wild Strawberries' is the movie that's supposed to have catapulted Bergman to the fore of world cinema, expanding his fan base which was previously only within Europe.

The movie is primarily about Isak Borg, a retired professor of medicine who has had a fruitful life in the world's view. The screenplay which takes the form of a road trip is a semi-metaphor to Borg traveling down the memory lane and reflecting upon his past. Borg is an admirable man to the society. But within his family, he's not liked that much. It's because of his bad parenting that his son Evald refuses to have a child and already feels dead inside. Borg's coldness clouds his judgment when it comes to financially helping even his own son. The movie sums up the transformation (though not a radical one) of the professor through interactions with fellow human beings, his dreams and distorted-reality sequences - all of which happen on his journey from Stockholm to Lund where he would receive his honorary doctorate.

In one of the first few scenes, we see Borg taking the audience through one of his dreams which involves a coffin with Borg's body falling off a horse-drawn carriage; when the coffin is opened, he emerges with a tragicomic face. At this point, Bergman cuts back to reality and shows a horror struck Borg. This allusion to fear of death will come to back to haunt Borg in another dream sequence where he would be shown the door and a young child will be taken inside the house. We see a handless watch and at a later point Borg's mom talks of how quickly time travels - a reference to the futility in appreciating life in terms of time. In one of his dreams, Borg sits for an examination of human understanding, interactions and psychology and fails the test. Such metaphors about life and how it applies to Borg are plenty; only that they don't have any power.

The film is technically adept. Shot in black & white by Gunnar Fischer, the varying shades of greyness are beautifully handled to evoke fear, pain, indifference and sympathy. Erik Nordgren's score is just about perfect. In a film that runs for 91 minutes, he has composed music for less than 10 minutes - announcing itself if and only if needed. But the highlight of the movie belongs to two actors: Victor Sjostrom and Ingrid Thulin. Victor, a veteran actor and director magnificently plays the lead role - evoking sympathy, trying to understand his circle and finally transformed. Ingrid, playing Marianne brilliantly portrays a mature woman who is caught somewhere between liking and hating her father-in-law.

When I was in college, I tried watching one of Bergman's movies and fell asleep midway. It's been a while since I started viewing movies with a serious eye and the good news is that I didn't fall asleep through 'Wild Strawberries'. In fact I saw it two times, the second time with a commentary by film scholar Peter Cowie. Bergman's dialogues are brillaint, but the story is watered down and meanders aimlessly. The screenplay has too many diversions; frequent switches between reality and surreality is heavily distracting. Since scholars around the world hail this movie as an achievement, I'm tempted to say that I'm not mature enough to understand the themes; however, in my present state, I'm afraid that I may not come to like such movies at all. Personally, 'Schindler's List' remains a landmark movie in my roster that profoundly affected my view of humanity. I felt such an indifference towards the characters of the movie; I'm quite sure you feel the same way about this review because it's them behind this piece of writing.

Labels: , , , ,

1 Responses to “Wild Strawberries - Movie Review”

  1. # Blogger சந்திரசேகரன் கிருஷ்ணன்

    I have also seen this movie and I remember this how Borg gets transformed to during his journey. The metaphorical dream scene and failed test in my opinion are to signify how borg realises his position. Also, the brief romance (flashback) is so beautifully scripted by the director.
    I have another Bergman's movie to recommend - The seventh seal. It ia metaphorical classic. Just in case you can read tamil, you may read my review of this movie in my blog -  

Post a Comment