Ciro Discepolo | English corner | The Strawberries’ Place


The Strawberries’ Place (by Ingmar Bergman)
by Ciro Discepolo

In the movie, Wild Strawberries (The Strawberries’ Place, Sweden 1957), the supporting trace of the visual story is constituted by the trip that the professor Isak Borg realizes from Stockholm to Lund, at the end of spring that counted his 78 years, to receive the premium of his professional jubilee, and as all the travels of fiction or of literature, this represents another one: the trip of man inside his conscience and of his past.
The night prior departing the old Borg dreams of being gone out for his usual morning walk, but he feels to be in an unknown zone of the city where there are desert streets and crumbling houses. All the watches are without hands (is time finished?) and first he meets a dead man and after he sees his own image that, with a mask on his face, tries to pull him into a coffin. The isolation, the death, the bells that are ringing for mourning, the desert streets, all these symbols make him wake up brusquely and shows him his near end. Then he decides not to depart by airplane for Lund but to arrive there by car. To accompany him there is his daughter in law Marianne that is temporarily separated from her husband.

During their journey the professor opens himself towards the woman that doesn’t hesitate to tell him as everyone judges the doctor a great egoist that thinks only about himself. The movie, a wonderful black and white, proceeds with going back of the doctor, in time, and he desires stopping to show Marianne the home where he went in his young age, in the summer, to take the summer vacation with his nine brothers. He goes near a bush and, with a little agitation, shows the strawberries’ place to his daughter in law. It is the central point in the movie that explains many things that I think that the great Sweden director wanted to say, director that I loved and I love a lot, but over all I love that Bergman of the 50’s. The old professor, specialized in bacteriology, dressed with a coat while his young companion goes to bathe a little further ahead, review the scenes of his youth in a flash-back by a faster montage in relation to the other “real” scenes. He remembers that there suffered his first hard hit of life: in the strawberries’ place his Sara, probably fifteen like him, kisses his brother Sigfrid that after will marry her taking her from him.
Borg listens to Sara’s outburst with her big sister; she says of him: “… he is a kind boy, good, with good sentiments, noble, sensible, solicitous; he reads poetries, has such a high soul. Sometimes he gives me the impression of being a child”.
Borg, when the news of Sara-Sigfrid’s kiss will spread through the synchronized voices of the pestilential little twins, receives the first important big shock from life and he understands that sentiments don’t pay.
Be careful because this – probably – is the most important passage of the movie that describes what happens, often, to the Cancer signs like Bergman that signed the subject, the film script and the direction of the movie.
In that moment begins, for the young Isak, that particular psychological process that conduces, in my opinion, a tender and a sweet Cancer to compensate these sentiments that are not winning and to become coriaceous, hard (superficially), egoist, then a classic Capricorn.
These “compensated” Cancers become super-efficient, drastic, hard, even “Nazi” (not in the political sense, but in the intransigence one).
Then Bergman describes this thin passage in which he became old in a very short time and lived – so he tells to his daughter in law with which he re-departed – “as if he was already dead”.
In the car together them, now, there are three young persons: a girl, Sara, rich with joy and with a kind soul (old Borg’s soul), Anders, that is studying to be a theologian (that side of the doctor that always less often interrogates itself on God’s existence and on death’s mystery) and Victor, graduating in medicine, that with his sarcasm mask and with the science’s presumption, incarnates very well the figure of the old studious dried up in his sentiments.
The three young persons ask for a ride towards Lund from where they will proceed to go to Italy. The atmosphere has become more joyous and Borg ends to open himself always more, but proceeding the trip the sky (metaphorically) becomes darker and even a storm arrives. Earlier there was the visit of Marianne and her father in law to his very old mother.
The woman remains disconcerted because she sees in four generations (Borg’s mother, the same Isak, Isak’s son that is her husband and the foetus that she has in her womb) like a single unique straight line of egoism, human separation, sentiments dried up.
Now Marianne is driving the old car and Isak dreams newly. The following scenes, concerning the professor that has returned to take the examinations, are clearly of Kafkian inspiration and the dream is not but a clone of Josef K.’s process, so as we can read in the terrible novel of the Bohemian writer, even he deeply Cancer.
The professor watches into the microscope without seeing anything (he is not able to “read” the realty). At the end the condemn that will be given to him will be “loneliness”.
Lund is always nearer and the old Borg sees always with a lot of clearness that he lived a life as a dead man, mortifying his emotions and condemned himself to the total loneliness. In him it is happening what that Jung calls “individuation process”, exactly when a person takes full conscience of himself.
Many black and twisted branches touch lightly the car roof that is travelling against them and these branches let us think of the Rorschach’s spots.
Finally the trip ends with the prize ceremony for the professor and the movie finishes with an optimist note that shows us Marianne re-getting near to her husband and the old professor that falls asleep (and gives us the idea of not waking up anymore) thinking newly about his childhood and seeing his two parents – from the other part of a shore – that smile at him and wave to go with them.