Cinema in quarantine: Wild Strawberries

Image: Elyeser Szturm

By Lincoln Secco*

Commentary on the classic film by Ingmar Bergman, awarded the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.

Ingmar Bergman's filmography can be seen from three dilemmas: childhood, love and history. Of the three elements, the third is the least visible. The first was the most consciously explored. The second could be defined more as the lack of love or successive attempts to conquer it.

wild strawberries (Smultron stället, 1957) ( brings together the entirety of the Bergmanian problematic. From the problem of childhood, love and history, to the question of the existence of God. Theme so present in the seventh seal (Det Sjunde Insegelt, 1956) and which returns in Fanny and Alexander (Fanny Och Alexander.


Already in the early 1960s, Jörn Donner dealt with the cultural, historical and political substratum of Ingmar Bergman's films. His themes could not be dealt with in another time or in another society. Firstly, due to the director's inability to adapt to another reality. Liv Ulmann tells in her book Mutations (Nordic), the strangeness of herself and also of Bergman in relation to North American behavior (Liv Ulmann was Bergman's wife and one of her greatest actresses, alongside Ingrid Thulin and Bibi Anderson).

Secondly, cinema is both an art and an industry, and nowhere outside Western Europe, and perhaps especially outside Sweden, could a director initially rely on state bureaucracy and independence from immediacy. from the market. Post-World War II Sweden was torn between the construction project of its welfare state and guilt in the face of the silence and “neutrality” of many in the face of Nazism.

Nor would the weight and density of the dialogues in Bergman's work be explained without the Swedish and Nordic theatrical tradition in general, of Strindberg or Ibsen, and without the cinematographic tradition of Viktor Sjöström, for example. The production of an advanced society, in the material aspect, allowed the incisive concentration on the most distressing and existential problems of modern man.

History, however, only matters to us as it is filtered through individuals. For Bergman, these individuals are not allegories, but symbols, concrete incarnations of historical life and even class situations. His notes prior to the texts that served as the basis for the films Scenes from a wedding (Scener ur ett Äktenskap, 1973) e puppet life (Ur marionetterns liv, 1980) are quite explicit in this regard.

In the first case he says: “Johan and Marianne are children of very precise conventions, formed within the ideology of material security. They never considered the bourgeois principles they live by as restrictive or false. They organize themselves within a pattern of life that they are willing to transmit to their descendants. His past political activities are more a confirmation of this idea than a contradiction.”

This film, produced for Swedish television, did not escape certain exaggerations about Marianne's behavior. So much so that part of her reactions seemed even to Liv Ulmann (the actress who played her) a little far-fetched. Liv Ulmann's complaint, in an interview with David Outerbridge, is correct, but for Bergman the most important thing was to bring the characters to a paroxysm.

Em puppet life, he points this out best: "Why does a short-circuit reaction arise in a totally well-adapted and well-established person?" About Face to face (Ansikte mot Ansikte, 1975), Bergman wrote: “In this way, the main character of our film began to take shape: a human being well integrated into society, capable and disciplined, a well-regarded professional in her career, happily married to a talented colleague, and surrounded by what can be called the good things in life. It is the rapid and shocking collapse of this exceptional character and its painful rebirth that I have tried to describe.”


The lack of love is linked to countless Bergman films and his own life. No summary could be better than a single narrative of the character Viktor, from autumn sonata (herbalsonate ou hostsonat, 1978): "When I asked Eva if she wanted to marry me, she straightened up and said she didn't love me. I asked if she loved someone else. She said she was incapable of love.”

The film trolosa (Unfaithful), by Liv Ulman (scripted by Bergman) has several explicitly autobiographical sequences. David and Marianne's escape to Paris. The sex. The disappointment. A couple's infinite capacity for mutual destruction. The daughter's abandonment to the ferocious struggle of adults. Just read Bergman's autobiography, Magic Lantern (Guanabara), to read the account of a playwright on the run with his lover to… Paris.

Em wild strawberries the theme of lack of love is condensed into a terrible scene. Isak Borg loved Sara, but she married someone else. Once old, he is taken by a man in his dream. They stop in front of a clearing in the forest. There is your wife in a sexual act. The man says: “Many forget a woman who died thirty years ago, some keep a sweet elusive portrait, but you can remember this scene in memory of her. Does it sound weird? Tuesday, May 1917st, XNUMX. You were right here, and you heard and saw precisely what that man and woman did.”

As Jörn Donner very well noted, the importance of the scene is not in the act, but in the woman's words. She plans to go home and tell her husband everything. She already knows what he's going to say: “Poor girl, I feel so sorry for you. Exactly like a god. And I will cry and say: do you really feel sorry for me? And he'll say: I feel terribly sorry for you, and then I'll cry some more and ask him if he can forget me, and he'll say: You shouldn't ask to forget you. I have nothing to forget, but he will not feel any of his words because he is completely cold…”.

Another man's possession of his wife matters little. Isak is cold. The combination of "Is” (ice) and “Deposit” (fortress) was just a coincidence, as Bergman himself emphasized in his book Images (Martins Fontes). As if he were dead. One of the first scenes in the film is his dream. He sees himself in a coffin. Then he prepares to travel from Stockholm to Lund, where he will receive the title of Doctor Honoris Causa in a university. This ceremony looks extremely funereal.

Your mother is also cold. Your child is also cold and wants to die. What is the origin of this coldness? In the film, Isak's mother has butterflies in her stomach. This goes back to an autobiographical passage by Bergman: “I had the impression that certain children were born from cold wombs”. The explanatory key is, therefore, childhood.


the principle of wild strawberries it is, in fact, childhood. Victor Sjöström – the great Swedish director and actor – was 78 years old when he acted in wild strawberries. In 1916, during a crisis in his personal life, Sjöström decided to travel by bicycle through parts of the country he knew he had lived in as a child. This trip coincides with the role he now plays at the age of 78.

However, Bergman himself, in an interview with Björkman, Sima and Manns, explains the origin of the script: “One day, it was early in the morning, I took the road to Dalécarlie. I left Stockholm at 4 or 5 o'clock. An hour or so later I was in Uppsala. (...). Grandma lived at 14 Nedre Slottsgatan Street, opposite Skrapan, the school, you know. It was a very old building and she had a huge apartment. In the long hallway, there was a bathroom with velvet-lined walls. The rooms were large, there were wall clocks that chimed, huge rugs, and stately furniture. The interior hadn't changed since my grandmother moved in as a newlywed. It was a bit like a combination of furniture from two bourgeois families, with paintings from Italy, sculptures and palm trees. That's where I used to live, from time to time, when I was little, and this environment left a deep impression on me. In short, on this day, arriving in Uppsala, the idea suddenly came to me to take a walk around number 14 Slottsgatan Street. It was autumn, the sun was beginning to show behind the Cathedral and the clocks were striking 5 o'clock. I enter the small courtyard, which was covered with round stone, I go up the stairs and the moment I grab the handle of the service door, which still has a stained glass, I suddenly say to myself: imagine a little, you open the door, and what do you see, old Lalla, old cook, with her big apron. She's making oatmeal, like she did so many times when I was little. With a blow I could only open the door of my childhood”.

Now wild strawberries it is an old man's journey in a single day between Stockholm and Lund. And at the same time, he tells the dreams he has during the trip. The return to childhood. Your story. The story of a bacteriologist involved in a tradition that is presented by the director as funereal, dead, from a country that no longer exists. Between childhood and the culmination of her life story, mediates the beloved who did not marry Isak. Finally, between the finished story and nostalgic childhood, a love lost forever.

* Lincoln Secco is a professor of history at USP.


wild strawberries (Smultron stället)


Ingmar Bergman. Scenes from a wedding. Rio de Janeiro: Nordic.

Ingmar Bergman. Face to face. Rio de Janeiro: Nordic.

Ingmar Bergman. I quattro film. Sorrisi di uma notte d´estate. The seventh sigil. Il posta delle fragole. I'll be back. Turin: Einaudi.

Ingmar Bergman. Images. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 2001.

Ingmar Bergman. Magic Lantern. Rio de Janeiro: Guanabara.

Ingmar Bergman. The Magic Lantern. London: Penguin Books.

Ingmar Bergman. The marriage scenarios. Scenes from a marriage. Face to face. autumn sonata. New York: Pantheon Books.

Ingmar Bergman. puppet life. Rio de Janeiro: Nordic.

Carlos Armando. The Planet Bergman. Belo Horizonte: Book Workshop.

David Outerbridge. Liv Ulmann without falsehoods. Rio de Janeiro: Nordic.
Jörn Donner. The films of Ingmar Bergman from Torment to All these women. New York: Dover

Liv Ulman. Options. Rio de Janeiro: Nordic.

Liv Ulmann. Changing. New York: Bantam Books.

Stig Bjorkman et. Al. Cinema According to Bergman. Rio de Janeiro: Peace and Land.

Tino Ranieri. Ingmar Bergman. Firenze: La Nuova Italia,

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