Wild Strawberries On DVD

Victor Sjöström, Ingrid Thulin, Bibi Andersson, Gunnar Björnstrand, Gertrud Fridh, Max Von Sydow. Directed by Ingmar Bergman. Aspect ratio: 4:3. Dolby Digital mono. 91 minutes. 1957. The Criterion Collection 139. NR. $39.95.

Wild Strawberries is a profound, moving account of one old man's attempt to find meaning in his life before it's all over. Isak Borg (the superb Victor Sjöström) is about to get an honorary doctorate for his scientific work, but this turning point in his professional life brings about a gradual realization that his personal life has been a fiasco.

Stronger on principle than on compassion, Borg insists that his son, Evald (Gunnar Björnstrand), repay a loan Borg made him even though he doesn't need it back and Evald's financial situation is difficult. He isn't even aware that his cold-hearted, pedantic insistence on principle has bred hatred in Evald's heart, all the more because the tormented son is the mirror image of his father. Unable to love, he threatens to walk away from his beautiful, pregnant wife, Marianne (the radiant Ingrid Thulin), unless she gets rid of the baby.

During the elder Borg's day off in the country, ghosts of the past, memories of childhood, and recurring nightmares conspire to open his eyes to who he is and what his life is about. As he dreams about his old flame, the perky Sara (Bibi Andersson), picking Wild Strawberries—a symbol of unbridled nature and luxurious freedom—he realizes that he's deprived everyone around him of love and warmth, thereby effectively destroying their lives.

This early masterpiece from Ingmar Bergman delves into complex issues with alluring simplicity, and stands alongside The Seventh Seal and The Virgin Spring as the peak of his achievement. It's one of the filmmaker's more optimistic efforts

Criterion has once again done wonders with a flawless dual-layer transfer. The black-and-white images are crisp and luminous, the focus never fails, and the Dolby Digital mono sound is robust and consistent. The subtitles are easily readable. Bonuses include intelligent commentary by scholar Peter Cowie, and Jörn Donner's full-length documentary about Berg-man. If you're interested in the art of film and in the history of the cinema, this is essential viewing.