17 September 2010

20 Scripts in 30 Days: Number 9 Wild Strawberries, by Ingmar Bergman

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A distinguished professor in his 70s drives down to receive an honor with his daughter-in-law. Along the way, he picks up some hitchhikers, has a nice lunch, and visits his mother. He arrives at his destination, talks with his son, and accepts his award.
Within that simple progression lies a rich, sometimes painful and profound peeling back of the layers of his life. It deals with the bedrock issues: what is the nature of identity, and self, and how does that relate to those whom we love, whom we ignore.
And how one simple summer morning can echo down a life forever .
Dreams, memories and nightmares each take their place along with the present of the story.
We discover that Borg's present  -- like our own -- is linked with the past. The past isn't even past. It continually shapes us, and we pass those scars on to our descendants, just as Borg has with his son.
It's not all gloomy. Comic relief comes along the way. Bergman also holds out the possibility of change at the end; Borg, even in his seventies, can make discoveries that may alter his relationships.
The form of the script itself, as with The Hours, is more like a novella interspersed with dialog than a standard-format screenplay. Bergman even writes Wild Strawberries in the first person, Borg telling his own story, describing what he sees and what he feels. As with several narrators, we can deduce from the action and the dialog that Borg's not an absolutely reliable source, but we know him intimately as the script unfolds.
And the form of the presentation determines the meaning of the story. Flashbacks and nightmares aren't decorative, or an easy way to fill in back story; they're integral to Bergman's view of identity, a view which seems both true and compassionate.
Wild Strawberries has always been a touchstone film for me, but somehow I'd never read the script. Now, if it's possible, I admire the film and its creator even more.

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