photo manipulation by nacrowe
WILD STRAWBERRIES (SVENSK FILMINDUSTRI, 1957) by legendary Swedish director INGMAR BERGMAN is my vote for most depressing film of all-time. straight up.
the conceit of the film is an elderly professor traveling to his alma mater to accept an award for his life's work, when he is besieged by regret for the choices of his life. the opportunities he didn't take as they would've competed with his academic ambitions.
the idea of regret at a point in which you have no agency to do anything about it was deeply affecting to me when i saw this back in high school as part of a film class. essentially this film was my introduction to the concept of impotence, which is genuinely devastating to think about too long.
i never got into horror films in general, other than pre-1970s suspense films (ALFRED HITCHCOCK, BILLY WILDER) and early german expressionist films and their immediate adherents (FRITZ LANG, ROBERT WIENE, F.W. MURNAU, JAMES WHALE), partly because the idea of immediate death really isn't that terrifying. it's almost a relief. the idea of slow contemplation over years mulling over bad decisions is psychologically far more devastating and torturous in my opinion.
BERGMAN in this film effectively showcases this existential dread ironically through beautifully composed, hazy impressionistic dream sequences of sun-drenched, never-ending midsummer afternoons in the Swedish forests where as a youth he'd bask in young love. too bad his ambitions left her in the rear-view. these delicately shot scenes of youthful naivety bely a much darker edge in the context of the film, as seeing the college students only further reinforces his internal struggle. essentially this film is a CHARLES DICKENS' A CHRISTMAS CAROL except no hope of changing your ways. only option afforded you is to wallow in the misery of your past decisions.
only BERGMAN could make such a beautiful film that is so depressing! and thats why i love him. definitely worth checking out his filmography, especially this film or THE SEVENTH SEAL (SVENSK FILMINDUSTRI, 1957) . can't go wrong, both are highly contemplative films where characters are caught in an internal conflict asking life's most consequential questions.