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Ingmar Bergman's personal story about family and lost love

Wild Strawberries

Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman.

Starring Victor Sjöström, Ingrid Thulin, Bibi Andersson.

LSC Friday Classic.

Tonight in 10-250, 7:30 p.m.

By Stephen Brophy
Staff Reporter

An old man, a professor of science, sees a coffin fall into the street before him. It pops open and a hand reaches out, grabbing his arm. He looks inside, and sees his own face. Then he wakes up. Why should he have such an unsettling dream on the morning of a day in which he will receive yet another award for scientific achievement?

That is the question Ingmar Bergman sets before is in Wild Strawberries, which will play tonight in 10-250, part of the LSC Classics series.

In Sweden, wild strawberries symbolize spring, the rebirth of life. As Isak Borg, the cranky old fart at the center of this film, is driven to the University at Lund where he will accept his award, he falls into reveries about his early life and memories of sharing these berries with a young woman named Sara. He is traveling with his daughter-in-law (portrayed by Ingrid Thulin with her usual stoicism), who is estranged from a husband who is as cold and unfeeling as his father. Her proximity combined with his memories cause him to ponder how he has come to be so remote from the life around him.

This is the sort of meditation we expect from Ingmar Bergman, musing on the emptiness of modern life, the silence of God. We don't necessarily expect the touches of humor with which he sweetens this particular narrative.

As Borg and his daughter-in-law drive toward Lund they pick up hitchhikers - first a pair of squabbling spouses whom they eventually put out of their car, then two young men and a woman, also named Sara, who reminds Isak of his lost love (both Saras are perkily played by Bibi Andersson). Both sets of characters add a touch of levity to the tale.

Bergman has confessed that this old man - who shares his initials - is a construct for his own feelings of remorse about his own inability to connect warmly with those he loves. The name Isak Borg loosely translates as "Ice Palace." But Bergman also notes that the character was completely taken over by its actor, Victor Sjöström, playing his last major role and offering the finest performance available in any Bergman film.

Sjöström had been a film director in the 1920s and traveled to Hollywood where he made major films like The Scarlet Letter and The Wind, both starring Lillian Gish. As a collaboration between Sweden's greatest silent and contemporary filmmakers, Wild Strawberries remains one of the more intriguing of the essential classics of world cinema.