Day Twenty-Three: Wild Strawberries (1957) (March of the Movies 2023)

There is a name in the film industry that is new to me, but not to many others: Ingmar Bergman. He, during a majority of his life, made films dealing with the inner intricacies of humanity. If you go on any film database site, you will see that most of his films are almost universally beloved for their personal, humanistic quality. I’ve yet to see anything of his, so I wanted to dedicate at least one day this month to see what I was missing. In comes Wild Strawberries, one of his earlier works.

Recently I saw a short bio on Bergman describing him as “one of the most influential existentialist filmmakers of all time.” Existentialism is something that should intrigue me, especially with my constant urging for more “grounded” stories. With such enormous expectations, though, it may have been doomed to fail from the start.

Copy-Paste Synopsis

“Crotchety retired doctor Isak Borg travels from Stockholm to Lund, Sweden, with his pregnant and unhappy daughter-in-law, Marianne, in order to receive an honorary degree from his alma mater. Along the way, they encounter a series of hitchhikers, each of whom causes the elderly doctor to muse upon the pleasures and failures of his own life. These include the vivacious young Sara, a dead ringer for the doctor’s own first love.”


Actual Review

I’ll give the film some credit: those dream sequences are pretty rad. Interspersed at semi-regular intervals are dreams and memories taking form to either the comfort or disdain of the central character. Each shot leaves a trail of crumbs that provide to a bigger story underneath. The life of a man on the verge of death—what allowed him to become what he is and how he must deal with the inevitable. Those delirious sections, particularly near the very beginning, set a unique tone.

For the time period, this does seem a bit avant garde, though I doubt Bergman was the first person to invent a person experiencing nostalgia, grief, and loneliness onscreen. Even so, effective it is at installing this person, who seems to be wildly different depending on the person addressing him, as a link between life and death. His mannerisms, words, and thoughts describe someone constantly struggling to maintain order within himself.

I can only wonder what this is meant to symbolize.

This main character’s relationship with his daughter-in-law is likely my favorite part of this film. Communication and vulnerability in key moments really do break me frequently. How the small but crucial circumstances surrounding the people in his life change him by the end is incredibly touching. His daughter-in-law allows him the opportunity to see that chance, if not the conveniently dreary dreams he has. Whenever they spoke to one another, my immersion was crystallized.

Such praise it’s collected upon its release is assuredly deserved. However, there is one misstep that prevents me from going beyond: I couldn’t really find myself taken by it emotionally.

Yes, the foundation of guilt, sadness, desire for communication, and a giant mishmash of other things is evocative enough, only I didn’t care all that much. This film, I suspect, expects one to empathize very quickly and very methodically. Call it a symptom of my early-life bitterness beckoning, but I only cared to a certain extent. For all its sweetness and urging for warmer hospitality amongst loved ones, none of that exploded for me.

He really does have a very sad face.

Suffice it to say that it was a swing and a miss, though it was a pretty commendable swing. I really did like the shots of the characters’ faces. Their words, though a little blunt, conveyed a deeply rooted animosity for something or someone, allowing the viewer to make of things as they will. And the performances were mostly good, particularly in regards to the male lead and his eternally confounded face. Those close-up shots really did well to spell out his misery.


It could very well just be one misfire. Considering Bergman’s reputation, there’s got to be a film or two that will engage me in the same manner (or similarly enough) to most who cherish his work. Looking ahead aside, Wild Strawberries left a sort of vague, yet gentle caressing on the mind that I do not regret despite some disappointment. Mostly for those who wish for simpler pleasantries of life and the way we navigate them as we age.

Hey, maybe I’ll like this better in thirty years when I’m sixty?

Final Score: 6/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

If reading this compelled you to give me a dollar, feel free to tip me on Ko-fi.

Thank you for your time. Have a great rest of your day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s