restricted access The Failure of Sublimation and the Fate of Pain: A Reading of Bergman’s Wild Strawberries


Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 film Wild Strawberries is a resolved study of unresolved psychic pain. Bergman’s own deep feeling of having been an unwanted baby is an underlying driver of the film, a common root of the suffering of the protagonist Isak Borg as well as others in his family. Yet, the film also pictures a possible break in the transgenerational transmission of parental rejection. The essay includes a reflection on the film as a tribute to Viktor Sjostrom’s 1921 The Phantom Carriage; a reading of the first dream sequence as a sleep paralysis dream; and a consideration of the theme of generativity in both the film and the filmmaker’s creation of it. The article applies the ideas of Fairbairn to argue that it is not only frustrated sexual desire but also and mainly frustrated object seeking that becomes sublimated into art by the filmmaker and tragically repressed by his protagonist. Bergman’s film depicts a journey of profound self-discovery that does achieve meaning, but far too late in Borg’s life to permit a change of course.