Cast: Victor Sjostrom, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Bjornstrand
SUMMARY: Isak Borg (Victor Sjostrom) is a 78-year-old doctor who lives in Stockholm, Sweden. He is embarking on a trip to Lund, where he will be given an award for fifty years of medical practice. Isak is a widower, and has one son, Evald (Gunnar Bjornstrand). His daughter-in-law, Marianne (Ingrid Thulin), is staying with Isak briefly after a disagreement with Evald. However, she decides to join Isak on his car trip, and return to her home in Lund. A few nights before leaving, Isak begins having nightmares about his life and future death. After driving for a while, Isak and Marianne stop at a home where Isak’s family once spent every summer. He slips into a memory which features his cousin Sara, to whom he was once engaged. His daydream is interrupted by the arrival of a young woman, also named Sara (Bib Andersson, in both roles), who closely resembles his cousin. Sara is traveling to Italy with two male friends, and Isak agrees to give them a ride. Her relationship with her two companions — an admitted relationship with one, but romantic tension with the other — reminds Isak of the tension between himself, Sara and his older brother Sigfrid (whom Sara later married). Later, the group nearly has a collision with another car, driven by a bickering married couple named Alman. When the car will not start again, the Almans join the group in Isak’s car. Their bickering reminds Isak of his relationship with his late wife, Karin; it drives Marianne so crazy that she asks them to leave the car.
When they arrive in Lund, Isak and Marianne go to visit Isak’s 96-year-old mother. Marianne notices that the woman has many of the same traits that so irritate her in Isak (and her husband Evald) — she is emotionally cold and distant. After the memories he has had that day, Isak also begins to see these qualities. Following this trip, Marianne confides to Isak that her disagreement with Evald happened because she learned she was pregnant. Evald has been open about not wanting to have children, but Marianne insists on keeping the child; Evald demands that she choose between him and the baby. The group arrives at Evald’s house, and quickly go to the ceremony. The three hitchhikers attend, and are extremely proud of their new friend. That evening, they find another ride, and bid Isak goodbye. Isak prepares to go to bed, only to be interrupted by the return of Evald and Marianne. The pair have been at a party, and plan to return, but have to replace Marianne’s broken shoe. Isak questions his son and learns that he and Marianne are going to try to work things out. Isak goes to sleep peacefully, happy with the revelations he has had about his life.
MY TAKE: I thought this might be another one of those unintelligible, subliminal-meaning movies, so I was pleasantly surprised that I actually understood what was going on. It was even kinda funny at times. However, I’m not really sure what the point was. Isak has a number of flashbacks, which illuminate him to his life and personality, but he doesn’t make any dramatic life changes at the end or anything. He realizes that he’s kind of emotionally distant, and sort of apologizes, but doesn’t do anything drastic. I guess that at the end, he’s happy with this new self-knowledge. I just don’t really understand what prompted this onrush of memories, or why it was so important for him to learn this lesson — it’s not like he was a horrible person to start with. The really interesting thing about this film, in my opinion at least, is that it features Victor Sjostrom, who has another movie on the list. It’s the 1921 silent film The Phantom Carriage, which Sjostrom both directed and starred in. I’ve seen and reviewed that movie, and thought it was pretty good. Obviously, the man’s skills did not deteriorate with age, although Ingmar Bergman directed this film. This was actually the last film Sjostrom made, and it was a heck of a performance to go out on.
RATING: Not horrible.