Sunday, April 3, 2011

Wild Strawberries (Bergman. 1957)

"The truth is that I am forever living in my childhood."

I love movies. They are practically my life. The thing I love most about them is that they have the power to stick in my mind forever. This happens in a way that no song or novel could ever achieve. It is a feeling that does not allow any other feeling to compare. In my journey through the 1077 Films to See Before You Die I have watched some horrible and some breathtaking picture shows that I know will stick with me and make me a better critic in the future. With all of that being said, I have come across a film that I am sure will change the way I look at movies. In 1957, Ingmar Bergman released a film called Wild Strawberries. This is a film that I will never forget.

The film tells the story of an elderly professor, Isak Borg, who has lived his entire life bitter and cold hearted. As he drives to a ceremony in his honor, he is forced to recognize and confront what he calls the emptiness of his existence. He reminises about his lost love, horrible marrage and even his intellectual fortune with a grumpy and pessimistic outlook. On his trip, Borg makes a few sentimental stops and meets several people that help him to better understand the world. Eventually professor Borg is able to overcome his inner-coldness and rest in bed with an at-ease heart. But it is not the happy ending that makes this a great film.

Bergman's script, which he wrote while in the hospital, allows a viewer to see the film through many different perspectives. At the start we merely see the picture through the eyes of professor Borg, but as new characters are introduced we are given new angles to see the story. This is most easily seen with the introduction of Sara - the cheeky virgin. Played by Bibi Andersson, Sara is an energetic and sharp contrast to the stone cold professor. She brings a much needed energy to Wild Strawberries and also supplies the viewer with a fresh life outline. It seems that professor Borg is trying to avoid happiness throughout the film, but Sara is all about embracing it. She is a very refreshing inclusion to the cast- which is a tribute to Bergman's ability as a character developer in film.

Also, Bergman has a way of making a moviegoer care deeply for his characters. His script puts everyone on an even emotional landscape that makes the whole thing feel very real. This also has the power to make a viewer feel very uncomfortable during Wild Strawberries because the subject matter is very emotionally raw. In fact, there are two scenes in particular that put you in the center of action you feel as though you should not be watching. During the car ride, you witness an abusive couple trying to cover up their hatred for each other with novelty excuses. And in the most memorable scene you see professor Borg's son refusing to be a father for his unborn child. These are very real and uncomfortable moments, but Bergman and his cast have the subtle abilities to address them with class.

Another thing that is interesting about Wild Strawberries is its very Bergman shooting style. The film is shot in a low saturated black and white that is very easy on the eye. If you focus on Bergman's deliberate usage of black and white you may actually forget that the film is not shot in color. The manipulation of color is most obvious in the flashbacks of our protagonist. We see modern day professor Borg, cold and stiff, in a suit of black amongst his white-clad childhood memories. It symbolizes the man and his loss of happiness through old age. We as consumers are very quick to forget the craftyness that goes into making a film stand out visually...but Bergman does not let us forget. He drives the point of editing and color scheme into your brain. You notice it be accident but remember it on purpose.

I still have to say that The Seventh Seal (1957) is my favorite film by Bergman. But Wild Strawberries is a deserving second place. After watching it a second time, I realized that this may be one of the top foreign films I have ever seen. It is not a very long film and there are no ridiculous plot devices or tricks. This is just a subtle exploration through the memories of an elderly man. I strongly reccommend this to anyone interested in film. You will leave with a better understanding of how movies should be made.

Wild Strawberries: A-

My Next Film....Akira (Otomo. 1988)

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