Thursday, 21 September 2017

I've Just Seen: Cries and Whispers (Viskningar och rop) (1972)

 Director: Ingmar Bergman

Cries and Whispers, like Persona, looks at the complexities of female relationships. In this film the relationships are familial, between three sisters and a maid. Unlike Persona, where the two women seemed to be blurring into one another, two of the sisters in Cries and Whispers, Maria and Karin, struggle to overcome their own lives in order to support the dying Agnes. Only Anna, the maid, responds with complete love and devotion to Agnes in her pain.

The film doesn't follow a linear storyline, instead flashing back in time to memories of Agnes' childhood, Maria's infidelity, Karin's horrific episode of self-mutilation (which made me queasy), and Anna's reflection on her dead child. There is also a scene, which could be a dream or a real shared experience for the women, where Agnes comes back to life and begs her sisters to comfort her. This engimatic approach makes this a film one experiences and then pieces together afterwards.

The cinematography is utterly beautiful, with its etheral white costumes contrasted with the plush red furniture and decoration in the house. It keeps us entralled in this emotionally complex situation, as the sisters and Anna grapple with their own fears around death, their bodies, and questions of happiness and faith.

Like almost all of Bergman's films, I want to watch this again to see what a second viewing reveals about the characters. The film's overall tone is one of deep introspection that reveals many painful truths for the women (and the audience), yet the ending is one of quiet hope and joy for sisterly togetherness. As devastating as it is beautiful.


  1. Agreed. Most Bergman needs a second viewing to fully grok. This one I think qualifies as a true masterpiece.

    1. I'd love to see this on the big screen, and get overwhelmed by the red that bursts on the screen.