Movies We Like
Cries and Whispers
"In the screenplay, it says that red represents for me the interior of the soul. When I was a child, I imagined the soul to be a dragon, a shadow floating in the air like blue smoke....But inside the dragon, everything was red." -- Ingmar Bergman
For most of Ingmar Bergman’s career, the decision to shoot in black and white, both before and after Cries and Whispers, has been one of choice and trust. The delight of seeing his vision in color is not simply based on color itself but of his use of it in the film. Like a poet, Bergman decided to look past what color can mean for the eyes alone, to its purpose to help us understand and appreciate life, death, and the soul.
Cries and Whispers follows the current and past lives of three sisters, Agnes (Harriet Andersson), Karin (Ingrid Thulin), and Maria (Liv Ullmann). Aided by a faithful maid Anna (Kari Sylwan) and involved doctor David (Erland Josephson) and total isolation, the group attempts to focus on the pain of Agnes, who is dying of cancer. Through her position, Agnes waits for her life to end peacefully, keeping good and important memories relevant, while her two sisters, now faced with witnessing death, constantly reevaluate their own lives and disappointment with their ability to have intimacy with the ones they love.
Set in turn of the century Sweden, the story expresses the importance of religion at the time. Anna’s faithfulness as a servant who has experienced great turmoil resembles a Madonna or saint, while the grace and assuredness of Agnes is near Christ-like.
The visuals and sounds of Cries and Whispers are just as haunting as its content. Rooms steeped in red with characters dressed in black, grey, or white. Shadows drenched in red and whispers of doubt, agony, and melancholy overlapping images. The menacing tick of clocks keep time and pass time for characters who may never come to terms with their own value and the meaning of life.
Aside from the look of the film, the actors themselves deserve just as much praise, if not more. Kari Sylwan delivers the role of Anna with enough presence to rival the cast in its entirety. Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson, both used often in Bergman films, radiate their strength in intricate portrayals of people not only different from anything they’ve ever done, but from a time period they are completely removed from. Ingrid Thulin sends chills with her hard vindictiveness and cold manner. Lastly, Harriet Andersson as Agnes overwhelms the audience with her bravery and humility. Typically cast as a beautiful and spunky love interest in Bergman’s films, the exposed and unflinching performance she gives is phenomenal. Viewing her work makes you feel as though death itself is there--watching with familiarity and heading its warning. Highly recommended!