Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Where is the friend I seek / Var är den vän (Ingmar Bergman's Smultronstället) / Johan Olof Wallin

Where is the friend I seek at break of day?
When night falls I still have not found Him.
My burning heat shows me His traces
I see His traces whenever flowers bloom
His love is mingled with every air.
His voice calls in the summer wind.

This short translation from the english subtitles to Smultronstället a.k.a. Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman, 1957) fluttered many hearts (and some like me, who paused the movie midway to blog about it). The poem is a beautiful thought. But replaying the lunch scene over and over, I couldn't help but wonder why the dialog (which is in Swedish) takes so long for each individual line - they just seem to be saying too much for so few words. So I decided to find out more about the poem and its origins.

The poem, Var är den vän som överallt jag söker (by Johan Olof Wallin, a Swedish archbishop and poet) is an old swedish poem, originally written as a hymn in a Swedish book of Psalms published in 1819.

The poem is 8 stanzas in total. In the movie, Bergman uses only the first two, and breaks on the third one. Here are the stanzas spoken between the three characters:

Var är den vän som överallt jag söker?
När dagen gryr, min längtan blott sig öker;
När dagen flyr, jag än ej honom finner,
Fast hjärtat brinner.
Jag ser hans spår, varhelst en kraft sig röjer,
En blomma doftar och ett ax sig böjer.
Uti den suck jag drar, den luft jag andas,
Hans kärlek blandas.
Jag hör hans röst, där sommarvinden susar,...

Here's something for improvisation on the subtitles (hat tip to this guy):
"Where is the friend I seek everywhere?
Dawn is the time of loneliness and care,
In every sign and breath of air,
I find His love is there."

Happy cinema!

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