Ingmar Bergman’s brilliant experimental surrealistic Swedish movie about life, starring Victor Sjostrom, Bibi Anderson, Ingrid Thulin among others.
Professor Isak (Victor Sjostrom in one of the most magnificent roles played by him) is a 78 year old physician who is also contemptuous, irascible, hard nosed, selfish individual never caring for anybody else in his life. The opening scene shows him arguing with his long time maid. He has been invited by Lund University to give a recognition for completion of 50 years as a doctor.
He decides to travel by car along with his daughter in law Marianne Borg (Ingrid Thulin) who is pregnant and planning to leave her husband i.e. Prof Isak’s son. On the way Prof decides to take a reroute to visit his old house. And while there memories start stirring him, memories of his youth, when his cousin Sara (Bibi Anderson) loves him, but he apparently does not respond so she marries his brother.
They pick up a trio of hitchhikers Sara (Bibi Anderson, again) and Victor (Bjorn Bjelfvenstam) and Anders (Folke Sundquist). All three are in the youth of their life and Sara is yet to decide whom among the two she will marry. There is much gaiety and laughter when they are in the car, something Isak Borg has never experienced in all his grim life. Here Ingmar has shown a connection between Sara of his youth and Sara of contemporary life.
Then they pick another squabbling couple, the Almans who get on their nerves and after some time Marianne asks them to leave. Then he visits his old mother, who is 95 and recognises himself in her. The old lady is as irascible and disdainful as he is. His daughter in law confides in him that her husband, i.e. his son wants out of the marriage as he does not want the child. Prof Isak sees himself in his son. Marianne says that she has seen his mother, him and his son, now she is confused whether to bring the child into this world.
In between Prof Isak goes back in time in his dreams and memories and is humiliated by his examiner for not knowing basic medical terms. He is then led to a grove, where he sees his long dead wife having an affair with somebody else and berating that her husband does not care about her. In between he is failed in his exam because he is found to be cold, without any conscience and lacking in humanity.
Prof Isak gets the award and goes to his son’s home where his son sees a change in him and decides to remain with his wife and they go for a dance together. Prof Isak goes to sleep with a beautiful smile on his face.
Victor Sjostrom as the Prof Isak has rendered an absolutely near perfect portrayal of a scornful but confused old man learning things about himself which should have been years ago. Ingrid Thulin and Bibi Anderson have also done superb roles.
The story weaves slowly and has got so much of compassion and pathos in it, one feels for the old man Prof. Isak. Cinematography is brilliant and so is the script and dialogues. Cult classic.