Wild Strawberries is a film about coming to terms with old age and mortality. Following a day in the life of Dr. Eberhard Isak Borg who after living a life marked by coldness and isolation, is forced to confront the emptiness of his existence. The film’s strength lies within the performance of Victor Sjöström, who truly was approaching the end of his life. (He died three years after the film came out, at age 80.)
Sjöström was a legendary director and actor of Swedish silent cinema. He draws on the characteristics of silent cinema within his performance, with his rich, animated expressions that are full of repressed emotion. Sjöström manages to portray the isolation and regret that his character feels by using his eyes. There’s something poetic about his wrinkled, lined face.
Perhaps one of the most moving scenes which showcases Sjöström’s acting ability occurs within the dreamscape of Borg’s childhood. The old Borg comes across his first lover Sara (Bibi Andersson) who is gathering wild strawberries. Borg looks on (unnoticed) as his brother, the young Sigfrid, ravishes Sara with a kiss which she returns passionately. And, as the wild strawberries fall from her bowl onto her apron, staining it red.
Borg experiences the pain of infidelity and heartbreak once again; and we can see this pain as he recalls the memory, one that has haunted him for all these years. There’s something about Sjöström’s reserved and aloof demure which makes him infuriating but yet deeply sympathetic. In my personal opinion, the film is made stronger as this was Sjöström last chance as a leading actor after many decades past him prime. And he made the most of it with a flawless performance.