Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Week Nine, Part Two – ‘Wild Strawberries’ (1957)

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The Premise
Film fanatics and friends
 Fred Sullivan and Yasser Akram are on a mission to watch 25 of one another’s favourite movies. Each week they will watch one movie each and then get together to discuss what they have seen. At the end of the discussion, the watcher rates the film out of ten for the ‘recommender’. With only one film getting a ’10’ so far, it’s proving to be a tough ask to get full marks.

Fred’s choice this week is one of Ingmar Bergman‘s most famous and influential movies. Yasser, though, is not so sure.

You can read the entires from previous week by checking out the archives on the left of the screen.

To have a look at what Fred has picked so far, click here.

Likewise, for Yasser’s choices, click here.
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Fred: In the last few weeks, Yasser, you have watched movies directed by some of the greats such as Polanski, Welles and Wilder. This week it’s Ingmar Bergman and the film that brought him to international prominence, ‘Wild Strawberries‘.

Yasser: Yeah that’s right. I watched it. It’s managed to get into your top 25.

FS: The highest of praise. It was also the second-favourite movie of Stanley Kubrick.

YA: And it inspired Woody Allen when he was making ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors‘, which is also on your list. That didn’t fare well…

FS: No. It didn’t.

Wild Strawberries’ (Smultronstallet)
1957 – Sweden
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Victor Sjostrom, Ingrid Thulin, Bibi Andersson, Gunnar Sjoberg, Gunnar Bjornstrand

YA: You wanna tell me why you chose ‘Wild Strawberries’? Perhaps I’ll get a better understanding. Maybe I missed something

FS: (laughs) Straight in there with an insult. You are always trying to get me to talk about the emotional effect of films on me.

YA: Yeah, I am

FS: I haven’t seen many Bergman films but those I have all had a hypnotic effect on me. I get totally engrossed, almost mesmerised. They are so easy to watch, yet they really inspire me to think and to feel. This is the best of those I’ve seen. It tackles the very nature of what it is to be human, but it’s not a slog.

YA: See, I understand the questions the film poses. I get what it tries to do and I appreciate the different experiences Isak Borg (Victor Sjostrom) goes through and how people he meets on his road trip remind him of people in his past. I get all of that…

FS: …but…

YA: Ahhh Fred! Though the ideas were good, the film did barely anything for me.

FS: That really surprises me. Despite your opinion of ‘Crimes and Misdemeanours’ you seemed to connect with its attempt to ask questions on a variety of subjects. This film does all of that much better

YA: It was uninspiring to me. The only truly significant thing was the hitch-hiker, the same actress (Bibi Andersson) played his childhood sweetheart and her situation was almost identical, That was clever.

FS: Good grief! That was the only clever thing about it?

YA: That’s the one that stood out.

FS: Borg is on his way to be commended for what he has achieved in his life and when he looks at his life he realises that, in human terms, he has nothing to show for his 78 years. That’s what it is all about. What do we live for?

FS: In his youth he was dedicated to religion and morality, and he missed out on life. As his life progressed he dedicated himself to science and missed out again on what was important – his loving wife and a relationship with his son.

YA: Failed opportunities

FS: Yes – the three young hitch-hikers are the same. The men are too busy fighting over their beliefs to enjoy a fruitful relationship with the girl.

YA: I understand the metaphors, Fred – the hitch-hikers relationship mirrors Borg’s past, how he’s turning out like his mother and his son is turning out like them both. I know that the unhappy couple they pick up symbolise Borg’s own troubled relationship with his wife. It’s frustrating for me, this.

FS: How do you think I feel?

YA: The film was shot well and Ingrid Thulin was really good.

FS: Both Thulin and Sjostrom are excellent.

YA: I think Sjostrom only becomes excellent when Thulin is around.

FS: Awwww Yasser! You are killing me this week!

YA: She brings out the best and worst of him and is unafraid to point it out

FS: I think he’s brilliant. He’s very real.

YA: He’s not an anti-hero that you love-to-hate, he’s just a cranky old man.

FS: Yeah, but he’s supposed to be a cranky old man so you can’t fault him for that.

YA: (laughs) You are supposed to love or hate the lead.

FS: Says who? You and your rules!

YA: You need to find a connection.

FS: This isn’t a film made ‘by numbers’ – that is what makes it great. If I threw a net over ten people we know, you might like one, hate one and the rest you would think ‘they are okay. They are just normal’. That’s what the characters are like – not heroes or villans, just real people.

YA: There aren’t many films that I see and think ‘I gained nothing from this‘. This is one of them.

FS: Maybe you understood it more than I did. The whole film is about how meaningless life can be, so perhaps the film itself is supposed to be meaningless. I’m going to cling to that because otherwise I’ll be really disappointed.

YA: The idea of it was good, but it wasn’t executed well. It would have been better if the lead had been younger. Spending 78 years not knowing the fundamental fact that family and love should be your focus.

FS: Again with the rules! You just wanted the ‘Hollywood’ ending where he has time to change his life around.

YA: The guy is 78 when he figures it out. 78!

FS: His mother (Naima Wifstrand) is 96 and she barely knows any better.

YA: Then she’s a bigger fool.

FS: YES! She is a fool, and Borg’s a fool as he’s spent his whole life in pursuit of achievement.

YA: If the film had revolved around a 96 year-old woman finally realising that family and love helps bring happiness in her life, I’d have given it a ‘one’.

FS: I just don’t get it. You are saying that it’s unrealistic for people to go through life trying to please other people, please God, earn more money than their neighbour, or any of these things that are ultimately futile, and not realise that fact. I think that’s naive of you.

YA: No, I think it’s naive for you to think it’s realistic for people to go through life doing those things without appreciating the people in their lives. Borg is selfish.

FS: Yes he is, and lots of people are selfish!

YA: Who is he trying to better himself for if not those closest to him? How else is he to get closer to God? Why pursue more money or betterment if not to leave something for your children?

FS: The thing people say on their death-bed is ‘I wish I’d worked less and spent more time enjoying myself’. It’s a lesson you cannot learn as you have to die to learn it.

YA: The average Joe Bloggs knows that from his late 20s.

FS: Do they?

YA: I do, so I just didn’t connect with the main character or what he went through.

FS: You are not 78, I suppose.

YA: If I was one of those stuck-up, posh, hoity-toity, up myself academics that dedicates themself to be the best doctor ever, but alienates themselves from the people who they initially tried to help, loses their empathy and sees each patient as a pay-cheque then something might have clicked and I’d have walked away thinking ‘fuck. man! I have been wrong. This is one of the best films in history’. But I am not that person, so I’m unable to relate to it.

FS: Yet you can relate to a martial artist living in China 100 years ago? Or a Holocaust survivor? Or a grown man who fights crime dressed as a bat?

YA: Ouch!

FS: That is what I don’t understand.

YA: Look at ‘Fearless‘ as a comparison. It has the same concept. Something changes in the protagonist after he reflects on his past.

FS: Yes, but Huo had to murder someone, almost die, and have his family murdered to realise that. That’s not an everyday occurrence. Borg doesn’t have an extraordinary life like that.

YA: No, so it didn’t spark my imagination. He was mundane!

FS: I’m flogging a dead horse, here. I’m not going to convince you to change your mind so you may as well sum up and rate it.

YA: I’ve been very open-minded about all the movies I’ve watched in ‘Film Club’. I understood ‘Wild Strawberries’, but I am built differently from you. For me, there needs to be some emotional connection, or something inspiring in a movie. Ingrid Thulin was the stand-out actress. I also liked the maid (Gunnel Brostrom). Her attitude brought some light-heartedness to the film. The film could have been good, but it fails to deliver so for that reason, and the fact it didn’t even do as much for me as ‘Crimes and Misdemeanours’, it’s a 4/10.

FS: Jesus! A ‘four’. I can’t believe it.

Next Week: Fun for all the family with ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and the ‘Back to the Future’ trilogy.

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9 thoughts on “Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Week Nine, Part Two – ‘Wild Strawberries’ (1957)

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