For those who think legendary cine-Swede Ingmar Bergman's films are aloof and coldly austere, this warm, welcoming 1957 road movie of aged reflection - the inspiration for Woody Allen's Deconstructing Harry - might come as a surprise. It centres on Isak Borg (Victor Sjöström), an elderly professor who, on his way to collect an academic award, initially seems unbearable: a "confirmed pedant", near dead inside, and reviled by his son and daughter-in-law for his "inflexibility".
However, as Borg reflects on his life via memories, symbol-laden dreams and conversations with his co-travellers, Sjöström and Bergman build up a moving, complex character portrait, one that's rich in Borg's fears, nostalgia, passions, guilt and loneliness. If some of the symbolism is a bit top-heavy, Bergman's richly evocative contrasts of youth with age more than compensate, as does Sjöström's majestic performance. The actor seems to effortlessly convey as much of a life as film can capture, and the simple closing shots are haunting and humane.