Admittedly, I wasn’t a big fan of the second and third film in Criterion’s Bergman collection, Crisis and A Ship to India, but they were interesting as stepping stones towards the director’s more accomplished later films – and Wild Strawberries is definitely an illustration of those works and, after Smiles of a Summer Night, the second highlight of the collection.
Apparently Bergman wasn’t a huge fan of the first film he directed, Crisis (1946), which he called “lousy, through and through”. He wasn’t much kinder to his third, A Ship to India (1947), referring to it as “a major disaster” – except when his producer Lorens Marmstedt called to urge him to cut the worst parts, at which point Bergman rose to his film’s defense: “I informed him that I had no intention of cutting even one foot from this masterpiece.” Bergman may have been young and relatively inexperienced, but obviously he already had an ego to match a much more accomplished director.
From Lowell Bergman to Ingmar Bergman. (Classy, huh?) Yesterday we watched Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. Call me odd, but I find his movies entertaining. They get a bad rap for being a film nerd’s wet dream (but actually somewhat boring), but I think that many of the parodies of his style are unfair.
At least in the two Bergman movies I’ve seen so far – Wild Strawberries in addition to The Seventh Seal – there’s always been a gentle sense of humour that puts the more lofty philosophical and metaphysical passages into perspective. For every scene with the knight Antonius Block contemplating life, death and the existence (or lack thereof) of God, there’s a scene with his more cynical, down-to-earth squire Jöns, puncturing the musings of his more pompous master. And beyond all this, there’s nothing boring, overly intellectual or pretentiously existential in the very real dread of the scenes with the flagellants or the distrurbed girl about to be burnt at the stake.
And there’s something refreshingly sly about both Block and Death cheating at the chess game they’re playing, even if they cheat for different reasons.
But, fair or not, without Bergman we wouldn’t have scenes like this (wait for a bit to get to the Seventh Seal bit):
P.S.: By the way, I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to give away that they both win in the end.