Victor Sjostrom, Wild Strawberries
Credit: Wild Strawberries: Kobal Collection

At the age of 39, with Smiles of a ”Summer Night” and ”The Seventh Seal” under his belt, Ingmar Bergman stood at the center stage of world cinema — and he was miserable. His third marriage was on the rocks, he was juggling theatrical and film productions, and his nonrelationship with his stern pastor father anguished him to the point where he was hospitalized with an ulcer. There he conceived the script for the achingly wise Wild Strawberries, in which a self-absorbed old doctor (Victor Sjöström, himself a former director) quietly steps back into the slipstream of humanity while traveling to receive an honorary degree.

The opening nightmare sequence sprang straight from Bergman’s own dreams, and as the film glances into the doctor’s bucolic childhood, touches on the unhappiness of marriage, and marvels at the brutal honesties of youth, one realizes that the filmmaker is re-creating his father — and thawing him out in the bargain. The DVD is a thin package by Criterion standards, with a brisk, knowledgeable alternate-track commentary by historian Peter Cowie. But why carp when you have a print that’s as clear as a sense memory, and a film that goes where many others have gone (yes, this is Scrooge for Ph.D.s) but with a subtlety few have dreamed of?