Review - "Cries & Whispers" (1972) (Cinematograph AB)

WriterDave By WriterDave, 13th Jun 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Film & TV>Drama

Ingmar Bergman, who has been discussed ad infinitum, was a major influence on Scandinavian as well as world cinema. His films are extremely personal, reflective, and monumentally pensive. To say a Bergman film is "thought-provoking" is an understatement.

Bergman and His Four Muses

Bergman’s deeply psychological musing on mourning, familial relationships, and enlightenment is “Cries & Whispers.” Four wonderful actresses, three of them regular fixtures in Bergman films, star in this tale which is principally about transformations. Harriet Andersson plays ’Agnes,’ the ailing sister of Maria and Karin. Andersson’s performance is immensely effectual. Andersson, who has played many kinds of part in a myriad of Bergman stories, here is at her most melancholy, reflective and mature.

’Maria’ is played by the great Liv Ullmann. Ullmann is beautiful and mesmerizing in a difficult role. Ingrid Thulin, another recognizable Bergman cast member, plays the third sister, ’Karin.’ Karin is dealing with her own problems besides the fact of her ill sister Agnes. Karin’s cold nature seems to be the result of years of repression, falsehood, and animosity towards her husband and sisters. Karin is as damaged as the rest of the characters, but her trauma is manifested in misdirected emotional dissidence towards her family.

‘Anna’ is the final female member which make up the quartet. She is played by Kari Sylwan. Anna is the long time suffering maid whom, unlike any other character, is completely giving of herself. Anna is fearless and loyal in her unconditional love for Agnes; she acts maternally towards Agnes. At times, Bergman hints at a further relationship between the two.

The men in the film are more of an afterthought, and provide a kind of opposition, arrogance, and patriarchal influence which seems to illustrate the time period more than anything (around the late 19th/early 20th century). Bergman focuses his attention on this very staid Victorian (possibly Edwardian) era to heighten the dissatisfaction the women feel with their lots. It smartly adds an extra internalized repression that is gently coming to the surface throughout the film.

Marik Vos-Lundh’s production and costume design is brilliant. Vos-Lundh uses the themes of red and white in the beginning of the film to represent passion and neutrality. Then later, Vos-Lundh’s colors switch to black representing a void, and finally at film’s end, the colors of Autumn are used idyllically to hint at acceptance and resolution.

The melodic notes of Chopin and Bach match the mood of Bergman’s film and are heard sparsely via cello throughout. The entire thematic nature of the film is quietly operatic, and highly symbolic in presentation. The film stands in the top echelon of Bergman’s best, along with “Fanny & Alexander,” “Persona,” and “The Seventh Seal.” “Cries & Whispers” is a challenging watch; both complex and spiritual, and ultimately a kind of somber masterpiece.


Harriet Andersson, Ingmar Bergman, Ingrid Thulin, Liv Ullmann

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author avatar WriterDave
Writing can be many things to many people. For me, it is a way of expression and understanding. Reviewing films, hopefully helps myself and others better understand and get more out of the film.

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