One of Bergman's Most Memorable Films
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 11/02/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Upon its release CRIES AND WHISPERS was hailed as one of Bergman's finest films. Although it has not quite held onto that original evaluation, it remains a very fine film--a subtle and delicately performed drama as remarkable for its silence as for its occasional moments of dialogue. And in many respects it offers an extremely good introduction to Bergman's work.Like many of Bergman's films, CRIES AND WHISPERS shows the director's preoccupations with memory, communication, time, community, and death. The story is bleak: Agnes is dying and her sisters Karin and Maria have come to attend her during this final illness--but they prove unable to communicate in a meaningful way with either Agnes or each other, and Agnes' emotional care is left largely to her long-time maid, the devoted Anna.As the film unwinds, we are bought into the memories of each woman in turn. The dying Agnes (played with powerful realism by Harriet Andersson) not only graples with increasing pain, she recalls with regret the emotional separation that existed between her long-dead mother and herself. Sister Maria (Liv Ullman), a mindless sensualist, recalls an act of adultry that has poisoned her marriage; Sister Karin (Ingrid Thulin), who is emotionally cold, recalls an act of self-mutilation designed to thwart her husband's desires. Only the maid Anna (Kari Sylwan), with a peasant's directness, actually works to be of comfort, even going so far as to cradle Agnes' head on her naked breast and dreaming of comforting Agnes while her sisters fail.The film is ever so delicately tinged with subtle elements of lesbianism, sadomasochism, and incest, and the emotional problems experienced by Maria and Karin are at least partly sexual in nature--but these are not the focus of the film so much as they are surface indications of a deeper internal turmoil. As to what that deeper turmoil is... Bergman might say it is the nature of life itself. We each stand alone, usually in denial of our own mortality, usually unable to reach each other in any meaningful way. A deep film, and in spite of its occasional awkwardnesses a memorable and touching film. Recommended."
BRILLIANT, DISTURBING EXPLORATION OF HUMAN FRAILTY
RALPH PETERS | CLOVIS, CA USA | 05/09/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There was such a buzz of excitement and curiosity about this film during its initial U. S. release that I would have given almost anything (at age 12) to sneak off and see it. No such luck; I would have to wait another 12 years for the video version and, in retrospect, am glad to have had the extra years. Some of the images in this brilliant collage of thoughts and dreams are far too disturbing to take in as an adult, let alone in childhood. As is the mark of a true classic, CRIES AND WHISPERS grows richer and more meaningful upon each repeated viewing (as do PERSONA, THE PASSION OF ANNA, and SHAME--other classic Bergman entries during this period of his epoch). The meanings of the flashbacks begin to gel in our minds and connect with some of the sisters' subsequent behavior (or not) and the painful, earthbound reality of death and its horrors has rarely been more poignantly portrayed in film. Much credit goes to these wonderful actresses: the legendary Liv Ullmann, whose physical beauty is transcended only by the grace and dignity of her soul; the difficult but finally endearing Ingrid Thulin; the strength and dignity of Harriet Andersson as the dying Agnes--a performance of overwhelming power and conviction that, inexplicably, was absent during the awards seasons.But, finally, it is the dreamlike authority and insinuation of Bergman's camera that stays with us, scenes so initmate and personal we begin to feel voyeuristic, almost apologetic for watching. Two scenes are most memorable for me: the dying Agnes lying against the maternal breast of housekeeper Anna in a Pieta-like pose of unbearable sadness and the final dream/memory sequence of Agnes remembering a time when she and her sisters were happy and at peace in their mother's garden. The camera lingers on the luminous Harriet Andersson as she wistfully gives grace to her life, "which gives me so much". If those words and the expression on that actress's face don't inspire the deepest, most profound gratitude for the medium of film (and Bergman the Master), I don't know what will. Most highly recommended."
When film becomes art...
Wil-n-Tally | Tallahassee, FL United States | 06/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film's message is so powerful and so devastating that everything will get very still while watching this movie. This is Bergman's masterpiece and since he is a cinematic master this makes "Cries and Whispers" one of the greatest films ever made. Be warned: Cries and Whispers is "Swedish art film" slow and bleak but it's message could change the way you think about life. THANK YOU Criterion."