The myth is that Ingmar Bergman films are all about death; the truth is that they’re all about life. "Wild Strawberries," an affecting masterpiece, matched in recognition within his canon only by "The Seventh Seal," is the movie that bypasses the myth. Yes - Bergman’s strongest allegory, about an arrogant old college professor traveling through his past, figuratively (through memory,) and literally (via encounters with his family,) on his way to picking up an honorary degree - is beset by a not-inconsiderable amount of dread, of helplessness, of existential despair. But it’s also funny, hilarious even, and its craft is as inspired as its perceptions. This is not a ’drag’. Bergman, at his best, was downright vivacious.
For their part - as always - the Criterion Collection has packed this lovely Blu-ray presentation with a number of special features, some for the hardcore fan, and some for the unconverted layman. A ninety-minute documentary, "Ingmar Bergman on Life and Work," is the golden inclusion. Filmmaker Jorn Donner offers an exquisite investigation into the filmmaker, playing with and analyzing his themes, concepts, and production traits with unlimited vigor. It may have been a soft-sell on its own, but it’s free. And packed with "Strawberries," this doc is as good as extras get.
A couple of small features from the DVD-version have been deleted - a collection of stills, for one - but Criterion has added a couple of Blu-exclusive options to make up for the perceived loss. Along with "Life and Work," you get a behind-the-scenes footage shot by Bergman, and an archived introduction to the film, also by him. There’s a commentary by film scholar Peter Cowle, and a booklet featuring an essay he wrote, as well.
But "Wild Strawberries" is one of the undisputed classics of world-cinema; a movie that deserves a space on your bookshelf on principle alone. It’s the one that disproves the clichés about Bergman. Despite the hallucinogenic, haunting opening scene, this isn’t a nightmare. It’s a dream.