I can't say much about the director's work. The first film I had seen by Bergman was The Seventh Seal, followed by "The Hour of the Wolf" -- Bergman's only (psychological) horror film. This is my third Bergman film.
It's an easy-flowing film to watch. mainly because the plot is so open for interpretation. At times lucid, lucious, and thought-provoking, but ultimately a film that will make you feel very insignificant, in a good way. Especially if you're a younger person. This theme in these film is the evaluation of one's life. That insignificance, however, allows you to cherish and enjoy life for what it is, rather than what society makes us believe it is.
Through the eyes of an old man, we see the coldness he has endured, yet given to others throughout his life. In some ways I felt comparisons to Kurosawa's "Ikiru", which is also about an old man having an epiphany towards the end of his days, looking back on his life, and trying to find peace before he leaves. It seems when death is approaching us, or the very thought of it, we all change. Perhaps if we all thought about death a little more, we'd be more satisfied with ourselves?
What makes the film so challenging to understand is the ground it covers on this road trip, especially when they stop at the house he used to spend summers at as a child, and picking up young hitchhikers, who trigger the dreams to troubled relationships, experiences, and moments in his life. We share the journey, whether it be the protagonists answers to his dreams, as well as the nightmares, the proposed questions about life, self-discovery, the purpose of reflection, and the meaning of human existance, or just the act of it.
The plot and cinematography, I feel, were both sitting on a back row seat. The cinematography especially was simple yet elegantly accomplished, and I feel this may perhaps be the director's most personal work. I have read Bergman wrote this script while in a hospital bed.
I'd love to watch this film later on, and perhaps give you my thoughts then, when I feel a lot wiser. It gives a warm sense of being knowing that a piece of art is going to be with you for a very long time.