In a career literally stuffed with sensational films, Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries ranks near or at the top of an impressive series of accomplishments. A combination journey film-memory film, Wild Strawberries works its hypnotic spell on the viewer about as well as any film ever made, and with the galvanizing performances and a superb script by the director which reveals character in non-linear layers in quite an unparalleled fashion, it’s safe to say Wild Strawberries is one of the greatest films ever made.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 32 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 06/11/2013
Professor of Medicine Isak Borg (Victor Sjöström) is slated to receive an honorary doctorate from the university at Lund and decides he’s going to drive himself from Stockholm to the ceremony taking a leisurely trip by car and stopping by some places that have played a major part in his life. He’s accompanied by his daughter-in-law Marianne (Ingrid Thulin) though neither of them like the other very much. Along the way they pick up a trio of effervescent youngsters who want to bum a ride: Sara (Bibi Andersson), Anders (Folke Sundquist), and Viktor (Björn Bjelvenstam). During the journey, Isak drifts in and out of memories and dreams recalling moments from his past that were life changing or catastrophic and which, along with some experiences on the road, allow him to gain insight into his own failings and help make strained relationships with Marianne and his son Evald (Gunnar Björnstrand) easier and more tolerable.
The Production Rating: 5/5
The dreams themselves which make up a fair percentage of the film’s relatively brief running time are a combination of surreal nightmares (Isak witnessing himself in an eerie coffin; Isak enduring that age-old nightmare of scholars who report for an exam with no preparation and no knowledge of what they’re doing) and scenes involving people from his past (his fiancé Sara also played in period clothes by Bibi Andersson being wooed by his brother; his wife – Gertrud Fridh – finding comfort with a lover due to Isak’s cold aloofness) are riveting to watch, and with all of the information being disseminated through them, home video offers a terrific opportunity to go back and rewatch them in order to catch every particle of character traits they contain. Ingmar Bergman’s transitions into and out of the dreams are remarkably fluid except when they’re not meant to be, jarring when information is particularly horrific which gives needed insight for Isak and which leads to some satisfying character redemption by film’s end. The memories involving woodland frolics and a family luncheon are captured by Gunnar Fischer’s absolutely dazzling cinematography mixing light and shadows with such expertise that the images are mesmerizing.
Long famous as both a director and an actor, Victor Sjöström came out of retirement to play Isak Borg. It’s a performance of such haunting depth and perception: a sometimes crotchety, sometimes sweet-natured, sometimes feeble elderly man that will give older viewers pause as they see aspects of their fathers or grandfathers right before their eyes. Bibi Andersson gets her own showcase here by playing two different versions of a girl named Sara: one from the past whose starchy primness is cast aside in the presence of an overwhelming passion and a more modern girl with a bubbly spirit but at times lacking finesse and propriety. Ingrid Thulin accomplishes a wonderful transformation on the journey from that of a rather dour companion to one who is looking ahead to the future with light and hope. Gunnar Björnstrand gets high billing for the relatively minor role of Isak’s son: a chilly, aloof personage mirroring his father’s own coldness in a slightly younger package. It’s great to see Naima Wifstrand in an effective one-scene role as Isak’s 95-year old mother (again showing us how Isak came by his detached tendencies) while Gunnar Sjöberg and Gunnel Broström raise goose bumps as a acidic squabbling couple who must be mirror images of an earlier-period Isak and his now-deceased wife.
The film is being presented in 1.33:1 and is offered at 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. It’s a superb transfer from beginning to end with impressive sharpness, perfectly realized contrast, and a grayscale that offers deep blacks and crisp whites (which only bleach out in the opening nightmare when they’re meant to go hot). The white subtitles are generally easy to read though they occasionally get a tiny bit lost when backgrounds they’re against are a brighter white than the subtitles are. The film has been divided into 23 chapters.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
The PCM 1.0 (1.1 Mbps) sound mix offers the limited fidelity one would expect from a movie of this vintage. Still, the dialogue is never drowned out by the wonderful Erik Nordgren music or sound effects, and there is just the slightest amount of muffled hiss that can only be picked up in the quietest scenes. Otherwise, the clean-up has been superb for the vintage audio elements at hand.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
Audio Commentary: Peter Cowie offers another of his wonderfully informed and illuminating analyses that is a must-listen.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
Introduction (4:04, HD): Ingmar Bergman has a few comments to make about the film’s genesis before watching the film.
Behind the Scenes of Wild Strawberries (16:54, HD): an absolutely essential supplement offering silent 16mm footage shot by Bergman during production (most in black and white, some in color) with film curator Jan Wergstrom providing audio commentary.
Ingmar Bergman on Life and Work (1:30:38, HD): a 1998 documentary by Jörn Donner who interviews the director about his personal life and creative contributions in a very revealing conversation. It’s mostly talk with the only film clips coming from Fanny and Alexander and Prison.
18-Page Booklet: offers cast and crew lists, film stills, and film professor Mark Le Fanu’s incisive analysis of the movie.
Timeline: can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc, the title of the chapter you’re now in, and index markers for the commentary that goes along with the film, all of which can be switched on the fly. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.
A great work of cinematic art, Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries comes to high definition in the kind of masterful transfer that its admirers can’t help but be thrilled about. The bonus features offer worthy supplements to a package that comes very highly recommended!
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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