Wild Strawberries captures the thoughtful and compassionate side of Ingmar Bergman rarely seen in his films. It is the story of an aging man’s introspective journey on the meaning of his life, and inevitability of death. Professor Isak Borg (Victor Sjostrom) is compiling his memoirs in preparation for an honorary degree that he is to receive for 50 years of medical practice. After an incomprehensible nightmare, he impulsively changes his travel plans, and decides to drive to Lund with his daughter-in-law, Marianne (Ingrid Thulin). Marianne is separated from his son, Evald (Gunnar Bjornstrand), but decides to go home and reconcile with him. The road to Lund is a reluctant path that takes Professor Borg through his youth: the family’s summer cottage, the town he served as a physician, and his mother’s house. He meets a young hitchhiker named Sara (Bibi Andersson) who reminds him of first love. He rescues a stranded, verbally abusive husband and his suffering wife, who undoubtedly reflect his cruelty to his late wife. In the course of their journey, he confronts his past failures, and reconciles with his life, and mortality.
Allegorical dreams are integral to the film’s theme. Professor Borg’s runaway carriage dream is similar to the dream sequence in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, signifying the burden of life, guilt, and inescapability of death. The dream is obscure and surreal, as if the mind is in denial of its fate. In contrast, the summer cottage dream is lucid, nostalgic, and melancholy. Professor Borg reluctantly awakens from it with a profound sense of loss and regret. His most unsettling dream occurs in a lecture hall because it is a place that has defined his existence. Having become alienated from his family, and denied his skills, his life, and legacy, are lost. The final dream occurs after he attempts to reunite Evald and Marianne. Recalling a family picnic by the lake, the effect is warm, peaceful, and redemptive. It is a subtly beautiful affirmation of reconciliation and closure.
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