Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Wild Strawberries (1957)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Wild Strawberries (1957, Swe.) (aka Smultronstället)

In Ingmar Bergman's allegorical, deeply-emotional road film about an elderly man's look back at his past, told through a flashback structure; the film was literally titled "the wild strawberry patch" referring to the wild, unburdened and free strawberries growing and simply existing in a hidden and secret place in one's past that could be revisited, hopefully without regret or pain:

  • the main character was Professor Isak Borg (legendary silent film actor and Scandinavian director Victor Sjostrom), a 78 year-old widowed, grumpy, wealthy, retired medical professor and doctor, who in the opening pre-credits sequence was sitting at his desk, surrounded by framed family pictures
  • in the film's first lines of dialogue, Isak described his isolated and lonely life (in voice-over): "In all our relations with other people, we mainly discuss and evaluate their character and behavior. That is why I have withdrawn from nearly all so-called relations. This has made my old age rather lonely. My life has been full of hard work, and I am grateful. It began as toil for bread and butter and ended in a love for science. I have a son, also a doctor, who lives in Lund. He has been married for many years. They have no children. My old mother is still alive and is very active, despite her age. My wife Karin has been dead for many years"
  • he added (further voice-over) that he had a faithful housekeeper named Miss Agda (Jullan Kindahl): "I am lucky in having a good housekeeper. Perhaps I should add that I am an old pedant, which at times has been rather trying for myself and those around me"
  • early the next morning, Isak experienced an expressionistic nightmarish dream sequence (also in voice-over) on a deserted, white-walled city street in Stockholm - with images of death: ("In the early hours of June 1st, I had a weird and very unpleasant dream. I dreamt that during my morning walk, I lost my way among empty streets with ruined houses") where he looked up at a clock without hands hanging above a pair of eyes (his own pocketwatch was also without hands), encountered a faceless figure who collapsed on the pavement with blood streaming out, and saw a driverless hearse pulled by horses; the wooden coffin crashed to the ground and he looked inside and saw his own corpse that was grasping for him
Isak's Disturbing Nightmare

A Clock Without Hands

Face-less Balloon Shaped Figure

View of His Own Corpse in Casket on Horse-Drawn Hearse
  • Isak awakened early in the morning, and decided to leave earlier than planned by automobile, rather than taking the one-hour flight to Malmo; the lonely, melancholic professor reassessed his heartless, constrained and cold life during the film's 375-mile car road trip from Stockholm to his former university in Lund (a 6.5 hour drive); there at 5:00 pm, he was to receive an honorary degree ("Jubilee Doctor") in the University's Cathedral 50 years after he had earned his doctor's degree; on the trip, he would pass by his beloved childhood summer vacation home, including the childhood village where his aging mother still lived
  • his visiting, pregnant daughter-in-law Marianne (Ingrid Thulin), unhappily estranged but married to his sole son - middle-aged physician Evald (Gunnar Björnstrand) who lived in Lund, impulsively asked to join him; during the trip, Isak admitted to her: "Don't pretend. You don't like me. You never have"; she explained her and her husband's reasons for disliking Isak - their frustration with him was partially due to the fact that he was "filthy rich" and didn't need money and still demanded payback of their loan; she also mentioned his selfish, ruthless, egotistical and uncaring nature, and his apathetic, "hard as nails," cold, old-fashioned attitudes
  • in a series of episodic sequences, he revisited (both in his flashbacked imagination and literally) many of the landmarks of his past; their first stop was his family's summer home where he lived for the first 20 years of his life with nine other siblings; this was the location of the titled wild strawberry patch; it triggered his long-lost memories and sentimental recollections of jealously watching his onetime, long-departed sweetheart cousin Sara (Bibi Andersson) with Isak's irresponsible, misbehaving, "good-for-nothing" brother Sigfrid (Per Sjöstrand) while she picked strawberries; to Isak's sad dismay, he was reminded that she had broken his heart when she later married Sigfrid and had 6 children
  • while at the summer house, Isak encountered three young hitchhikers - two young men Viktor (Björn Bjelfvenstam) and Anders (Folke Sundquist), and Sara (also played by Bibi Andersson); both Sara characters were caught between two lovers who were competing for her affection
Hitchhiker Sara (also Bibi Andersson) in the Present with Isak, and Her Two Competing Suitors
  • after a near crash-collision, a second group of travelers (an embittered, argumentative middle-aged couple) from a capsized VW joined them - actress-wife Berit Alman (Gunnel Broström) and obnoxious, degrading husband Sten Alman (Gunnar Sjöberg); the toxic, co-dependent couple (representing Isak's own failed marriage) became so disagreeable that Marianne bluntly demanded that they get out of the vehicle
  • at a Caltex gas station along the way, the husband-wife owners Henrik and Eva Åkerman (Max von Sydow and Ann-Marie Wiman) fondly recalled Isak's kindness and generosity to them years earlier when he lived in the area; the praise was so effusive that he denied gas payment from Isak: ("There are things that can't be paid back"); Isak thought to himself: "Maybe I should have stayed here?"; Marianne was impressed and moved by their kind words - bringing a smile to her face
  • enroute after a brief lunch, Marianne and Isak stopped at the home of Isak's elderly, 96 year-old cold-hearted mother Mrs. Borg (Naima Wifstrand); Isak was her sole surviving son of ten children; she showed Isak a box of keepsake mementos, including an old discarded doll, toys and her husband's gold pocket watch with no hands (the same one seen in his opening dream sequence); she provided hints into why people perceived her son as similarly-cold; she even openly admitted: "I have felt cold all my life"
Marianne and Isak Visiting With His Elderly Mother With a Similar Broken Watch
  • during the remainder of the trip, Isak napped and dreamt of being with Sara in the strawberry patch once again; she held up a mirror to his face and asked him to observe what he had become: "I'll show you what you look like. You're a worried old man who's soon going to die, but I have all my life before me"; when she urged him to smile about her marriage to Sigfrid, he admitted that it hurt him; she ended the conversation by telling him: "You know so much and you don't know anything"
  • while napping, Isak was also forced to face his past and remember that his deceased wife Karin (Gertrud Fridh) was very unhappy in their marriage and despised him; he was forced to rewatch his unfaithful wife Karin (Gertrud Fridh) having sex with another lover (Åke Fridell) in an outdoor setting in 1917; he listened as she blamed their problems on Isak's "cold as ice" callous and passive detachment from her and life

Isak's Unhappy and Unfaithful Wife Karin (Gertrud Fridh)

Marianne's Melancholy Husband Evald (Gunnar Björnstrand)
  • while sitting in the car with Isak, Marianne explained to him the reason for her disintegrating marriage to his melancholy and sad 38 year-old son Evald; when she had told Evald that she was pregnant, he said that he didn't want the child ("You know I don't want a child") and threatened to break up their marriage ("You'll have to choose between me and the child"); Evald told her about his own unhappiness and troubled past, and didn't want to bring an unwanted child into the world: "I was an unwanted child in a hellish marriage"; he added that his sole desire in life was to "be dead, stone-dead!"
  • then, the sad Marianne - after the visit with Isak's lonely mother - reacted to Isak's emotional detachment with fears for her own pregnancy and future life with her husband Evald: "I thought: That's his mother. An old woman, cold as ice, more forbidding than death. And this is her son, and there are light-years between them. He himself says he's a living corpse. And Evald is growing just as lonely, cold and dead. And I thought of the baby inside me. All along the line, there's nothing but cold and death and loneliness. It must end somewhere"; she vowed to Isak that she would have the child
  • in the film's satisfying, well-deserved and peaceful conclusion with some elements of hope and redemption, after Isak was awarded a degree at the ceremony, he appeared to come closer to his daughter-in-law Marianne and her husband Evald; he suggested cancelling Evald's long-standing enormous debt to him, and helped to bring them together and reconcile their marriage
  • furthermore, Isak experienced one more childhood dream to calm him; his memories would no longer torment him, but provided moments of pleasant nostalgia; his last uplifting dream was of a family picnic by a lake at his summer home; Sara ran up to him and told him: "There are no wild strawberries left"

Professor Isak Borg (Victor Sjostrom) at His Desk

Isak's Nightmarish Dream Sequence

Isak's Dreamy Morning Walk

Isak's Trip With Pregnant Daughter-in-Law Marianne (Ingrid Thulin)

Memory of Isak's Sweetheart Sara (Bibi Andersson) In A Patch of Wild Strawberries with Isak's 'No-Good' Brother Sigfrid

Toxic Couple: Berit Alman (Gunnel Broström) and Sten Alman (Gunnar Sjöberg)

Gas Station Owners: Henrik and Eva Åkerman (Max von Sydow and Ann-Marie Wiman)

Isak's Final Dream With Sara

Love Expressed Between Isak and His Daughter-in-Law Marianne

Isak's Final Memory-Dream

Hand in Hand with Sara at Summer Home

Isak's Pleasant Nostalgic Thoughts


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