Wild Strawberries

Isak Borg is 78 years old. Driving from Stockholm to receive an honorific award, escorted by his unhappy daughter-in-law (Ingrid Thulin), he replays his life for us. In voiceover and dream sequences, flashbacks and handshakes-across-time, the lonely, widowed physician (Victor Sjöström) recalls a happy childhood in a large, prosperous family, and his first love, Sara (Bibi Andersson), who married his rakish brother instead. During his day trip, Isak also picks up three cheerful teen hitchhikers—including a delightful girl named Sara (also Andersson). Sounds exciting, yes? What if I told you that Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 Wild Strawberries is one of the great, most influential movies of post-war European cinema? Would that help? This is one of the films that changed Woody Allen’s life, along with countless other budding existential guilt-niks of the ’50s. Wild Strawberries begins a five-title retrospective of Janus-Criterion classics (through Feb. 5). Incredibly, Bergman (1918-2007) was only 39 when he made this exquisite, melancholy, yet ultimately affirmative portrait of aging. It seems like the work of a man decades older, familiar with death, disappointment, and loss. The tone is Strindberg meets Lewis Carroll as Isak wanders through scenes from his past, even encounters a dream judge who declares, “You have been accused of guilt.” (Hence the influence on Woody.) Yet in a profound and unexpected way (no spoilers!), Bergman finds hope for the emotionally frigid Borg family. In a septuagenarian’s memories, there is a kind of rebirth. (NR) BRIAN MILLER

Jan. 2-8, 7 & 9 p.m., 2009

 
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