February 07, 2007

The Last Scene of Wild Strawberries

Wild Strawberries is one of the greatest films ever made- it stands as one of the principle acheivements of one of the principle directors, Ingmar Bergman, who worked in the modern world. Bergman's camera and his actors, particularly Victor Sjostrom, carve out in the film the tale of an old man journeying through Sweden and back through his life. This film is meditative and is about ideas- you don't need to be ignorant of the end in order to watch the film- there is no such thing as a spoiler here because the film is more like a poem than a film, and like a poem, it is both beautiful and profound.

Throughout the film, Sjostrom's character remembers his past, he goes back to young loves, middle aged marriage and to his parents' house in Sweden- to his childhood, his brothers, sisters, cousin and first girlfriend to find the resolution of his life. Memory in Sjostrom's world though gives this film a wonderful completeness- there is a gentleness in the way that Bergman films Sjostrom's memories. The ideal in the film is love- the way that people can relate to one another and can love one another- can stretch across the void which separates subjective intelligences from one another and can somehow bridge that divide with sympathetic imagination and with openness. Sjostrom's mother we are told has become dead herself- not because she is but because she has become frozen up, he himself and his own son have stepped towards death because they failed to open up their hearts to others. Death in this film is not so much a state as a psychological state- to live is to love in the fullest sense of that word, to feel both empathy and sympathy for another human being, to die is not to.

In that sense one of the most powerful scenes of the film comes right at the end. As Sjostrom lies preparing to go to sleep, a dream comes to him and he the old man returns to the house of his youth, and runs across the fields with his childhood love Sara towards his parents waving to him on the other side of the lake. We see the final shot of the film, Sjostrom smiling across at them in a kind of seraphic heavenly bliss and we realise that love does endure and provides happiness and content beyond the grave. Sjostrom's beatific smile and the notion of acceptance that parental love, remembered parental love, gives him are some of the most lasting impressions of this film which states firmly that human connection is what makes us alive. In that last scene we see that in Sjostrom's dream though his parents are dead, they live on, smiling and waving on a far shore with the acceptance and promise of a profound love that can sustain him in his 78th year.

There is much more to write about this film- but I just thought this might be a start and an advert to those that haven't seen it.


Mr Eugenides said...

I couldn't agree more. As a teenager interested in film I always worried that I'd find Bergman unapproachable and cold, but Wild Strawberries was the first of his films that I saw and I quickly realised that it was a masterpiece, pure and simple. It certainly remains my favourite.

Rob said...

As a complete layman in regards to film, I was gently 'cajoled' into watching Wild Strawberries - and ended up really enjoying it.

I'd recommend it too.

Gracchi said...

Mr E cheers for your agreement- I must post a more complete review but thanks it is a masterpiece.

Rob you are far too kind to say that it was me that got you to watch it but yeah I agree.

Unpremeditated said...

Thank you for reminding me of a real favourite. I always find it terribly strange that Bergman has such a forbidding reputation. While movies like "In a Glass Darkly" are certainly angst-filled, something like Wild Strawberries is kind, thoughtful, elegiac - a really wonderful movie. Even The Seventh Seal has moments of great humour (not to mention an ending which I insist on seeing as optimistic). Funny to think that I first found Bergman via a season on BBC2 in the 80s. I wonder when the Beeb last bothered to show a single film of his.

Gracchi said...

He is a film maker that I love. I agree with you I wished they had showed me his stuff on TV- but I never saw it. Its when I saw Bergman that I suddenly realised how powerful and interesting film could be. And yes I agree I don't think that the Seventh Seal is pessimistic nor do I feel that Wild Strawberries is.