"Wild Strawberries" (1957) remains, after 56 years, one of three most iconic Ingmar Bergman movies, along with "The Seventh Seal" (1957) and "Persona" (1966). By "iconic," I mean "most parodied with the assumption that the audience will get the joke." Its second scene, a horrible nightmare with deserted streets, clocks without hands, and an encounter with one's own corpse, hasn't grown any less chilling.
Despite that scene and an even scarier nightmare two-thirds of the way through, this is not as much a horror movie as many Bergman films, including "Persona," "Through a Glass Darkly," and "Hour of the Wolf." A gentle current of fear runs throughout. The protagonist is an old professor (played by the great Swedish actor/director Victor Sjostrom) on his way to accept an award, while being tormented by his memories, regrets, fear of death, and realization of his emotional inadequacies. (Trivia: The young Max von Sydow, who had just become a star through "The Seventh Seal," shows up briefly as a gas station attendant.)
Criterion's Blu-ray has terrific texture and sharpness. There is an excellent commentary track by venerable British critic Peter Cowie, recorded in 2001 for the Criterion DVD. It's more listenable throughout than most, thanks to Cowie's wonderful voice and his use of a carefully prepared script instead of the usual ad-libbing. Also repeated from the DVD is "Ingmar Bergman on Life and Work," in which fellow director Jorn Donner interviews Bergman for an hour and a half. Two new additions are a four-minute interview, in which Bergman introduces the film; and "Behind the Scenes of Wild Strawberries," a 17-minute compilation of home movies the director shot during the making of the movie. The extras are all top-notch.
"Wild Strawberries" (Criterion, Blu-ray, $39.95)
ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on "FilmWeek" on KPCC-FM (89.3).