Wild Strawberries Paperback – Jan 22 2008
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"The most perceptive examination of this film." -- Alexander Walker
About the Author
Philip French is film critic for The Observer.
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'Wild Strawberries', the story of an old Professor taking a long car journey which becomes a psychic journey into his past selves and failures, is directed by the genius of one Swedish cinematic generation, Ingmar Bergman, and stars the pioneering genius of the first, Victor Sjostrom. The Frenches begin by charting an instructive potted history of Swedish cinema and the place of these masters in it.
They offer a synopsis of the film full of insightful textual reading and an invaluable explanation of symbols or motifs, the emotional resonance of which Swedish audiences take for granted (e.g. the film is accurately translated as 'The Wild Strawberry Place', a real locale, but also an emotional metaphor analagous to Proust's madeleine). These don't radically alter accepted readings of the film, but quietly enrich them with detail.
The authors suggestively point to Bergman's many cultural influences, the films of Sjostrom himself, the plays of Strindberg, the paintings of Larsson and Munch, for example. They conclude with a history of Bergman's fluctuating reputation, contemporary critical responses (domestic and foreign), the director's iconic international status in the early 60s, the begrudgery bordering on hostility he suffered at home, the subsequent decline of his influence and legacy (among other things, the book is a tacit elegy for the death of European arthouse cinema). They usefully position Bergman in the Sweden of the 1950s, useful because he is a 'Great Director' rarely considered in a social context.
At no point do the Frenches intrude themselves on the study, offer reckless theories, or hyperbolise the film's worth - their profound love of 'Wild Strawberries' is evident from the time and careful attention they have lavished on watching it. They communicate this love to a grateful reader who feels that watching a Bergman film, no matter how you interpret it, is an enriching experience worth having.