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Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries finds regret and peace in aging 

Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: This Is 40 and Amour have us thinking about getting older.

Wild Strawberries (1957)
Director Ingmar Bergman was approaching 40 when he made Wild Strawberries, his achingly bittersweet reminiscence on aging and regret, but for all his insight on the subject, the film really belongs to its star Victor Sjöström, who truly was approaching the end of his life. (He died three years after the film came out, at age 80.) Sjöström was a legendary director of Swedish silent cinema—1928’s The Wind, with Lillian Gish, tends to be his most cited film, but a recent Criterion edition of 1921’s The Phantom Carriage may change that with good reason—and between his age and his immense influence on Bergman, it seems like an equal collaboration. There are shades of The Phantom Carriage in the haunting, abstract dream sequences and fantasy scenes that confront a character who’s drawn to the past while living in abject terror over the inevitable night the clock loses its face. 

Sjöström stars as an irascible 78-year-old widower who embarks on a road trip from Stockholm to Lund to collect an honor from a university for his years of service as a physician. He and his pregnant daughter-in-law (Ingrid Thulin) drive off together, and it isn’t long before he takes on hitchhikers, and their presence, along with the locale, sets off a flood of old memories that come rushing to the surface. Through gorgeous superimpositions, Bergman shows the past intruding on the present, as Sjöström comes to terms with the regrettable decisions that determined his life’s course. But Wild Strawberries remains a surprisingly optimistic and affirmative movie about getting old: It’s only natural for people at the end of their lives to reflect on the roads taken or not taken. And there’s peace on the other side. 

Availability: On Criterion DVD, and part of the Criterion selection available on Hulu Plus.