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Hecht, J. (2016). The Failure of Sublimation and the Fate of Pain: A Reading of Bergman's Wild Strawberries. Am. Imago, 73(2):211-227.

(2016). American Imago, 73(2):211-227

The Failure of Sublimation and the Fate of Pain: A Reading of Bergman's Wild Strawberries

Jamey Hecht

The fact that he can bring Wild Strawberries to a satisfying artistic conclusion raises some interesting questions about the relation between an aesthetic and an intrapsychic resolution of conflict.

—Sheldon Bach (1970, p. 87)


I have of my own free will withdrawn almost completely from society, because one's relationship with other people consists mainly of discussing and evaluating one's neighbor's conduct. Therefore I have found myself rather alone in my old age. This is not a regret but a statement of fact. All I ask of life is to be left alone and to have the opportunity to devote myself to the few things which continue to interest me, however superficial they may be. For example, I derive pleasure from keeping up with the steady progress made in my profession (I once taught bacteriology), I find relaxation in a game of golf, and now and then I read some memoirs or a good detective story. (Bergman, 1960, pp. 169-170)

Thus begins the opening narration of Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries. The protagonist has withdrawn from human society because social intercourse “consists mainly of discussing and evaluating one's neighbor's conduct.” On the one hand, his own conduct does not stand up to this sort of scrutiny, and on the other, if scrutiny and evaluation are all that sociality has to offer then it is not worth pursuing.

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