Ingmar Bergman, Sweden, 1957, Carlotta Films
Isaac, an old misery-guts, has been given an honorary award that he has to make a journey to receive. After a nightmare where he sees himself standing in front of his own corpse, he decides to travel to his destination by car. On his way, he makes a detour to take in his old family home. Drawn at once to the “wild strawberry patch” he lets his mind wander off on a melancholy tangent, and his voice over, which has been present since the start of the film, draws us further and further into his memories. First, we see an image from his youth, of the house in the past, superimposed over the top of the house as it is today, beckoning us into the past. Next, after zooming in on Isaac’s face, the journey to the past continues as we see Sara, his young cousin, picking strawberries whilst followed by a young suitor. Isaac, himself an old admirer of Sara’s, sees them now, even though he was not present at the time. Bergman pushes this logic even further in the scene which follows inside the house, where Isaac as an old man wanders in the present through the living past like a ghost, flowing unseen through the same plane of existence as the characters before him. The cut between the fields, with old Isaac and the counterpoint of Sara and the other cousin marks the border between the present and the past. A curious slip has already occurred. Isaac, a spectator to a past which he didn’t witness, tries to talk to the memory, but can’t be heard and remains trapped in front of the footlights of the play being played out in front of him in the theatre of his mind. The past is revealed but remains the past – untouchable and uninfluenced by Isaac. We are witness to a cruel tipping point in time, teetering between two seemingly contradictory eras of images: the first concrete – the body of an old man moving with difficulty, the sensuality of the play of the light, the tangible nature of touch, the feeling of wind and glimpses of everyday life, a flag being hoisted up a pole, a baby being cradled; the second more abstract, a mix of mental and temporal realities, underlined by lyrical and dramatic music.