Friday, October 19, 2007

Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)

*****
Sweden

Although thoroughly - and innovatively - cinematic in execution, Ingmar Bergman's study of a hushed regret with death encroaching has the richness and complexity of a fine novel. Victor Sjöström is the elderly professor, who, after a striking vision of his own funeral, travels with the radiant Ingrid Thulin (in what resembles a hearse) to the University at Lund to claim an honorary degree. Along the way, he remembers, reflects and regrets.
Bergman's first big American success contains glimpses of the major hangups that would haunt the rest of his work (death, bitter marriages, half-repressed hysteria, death), but it's an infinitely softer-edged film than his others. This isn't to say that he's being sentimental or naive or remotely optimistic in any way, but he is gentler to the Professor than he has a habit of being to his protagonists. Maybe it has to do with Sjöström's face. Maybe in it Bergman sees a manifestation of his own future (Sjöström was, after all, a personal hero, and every bit the cinematic revolutionary that Bergman was, only 40 years earlier). Or maybe in it he sees the wrenching, the scars and the weariness of a war that has singed the core of a being across decades, only to have finally reached the point where it continues as a state of normalcy, a strain so familiar as to bring with it its own sense of serenity (of sorts). It's a gorgeous, galvanising face.
And the supporting actors are no less vivid.

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