Cries and Whispers

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Cries and Whispers (Swedish: Viskningar och rop, lit. "Whispers and Cries") is a 1972 Swedish film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman and starring Harriet Andersson, Kari Sylwan, Ingrid Thulin and Liv Ullmann. The film is set on a mansion at the end of the 19th century and is about two sisters who watch over their third sister on her deathbed, torn between fearing she might die and hoping that she will. After several unsuccessful experimental films Cries and Whispers was a critical and commercial success, gaining nominations for five Academy Awards. This included a nomination for Best Picture, which was unusual for a foreign-language film.

Cries and Whispers returned to the traditional Bergman themes of the female psyche or the quest for faith and redemption. Unlike Bergman's previous films, Cries and Whispers uses saturated colour, especially crimson. It was for the color and light scheme that the cinematographer and long-time collaborator Sven Nykvist was awarded the Academy Award for Best Cinematography.



Cries and Whispers takes place in a lavish mansion in the 1800s, filled with red carpets and white statuary. It depicts the final days of Agnes (Harriet Andersson), who is near-death with cancer. Her sisters Maria (Liv Ullmann) and Karin (Ingrid Thulin) have returned to the family home to be with her. They remain distant and awkward, and struggle to comfort their sister, while dealing with shock and the fear of mortality her death is bringing to them. The deeply religious maid Anna (Kari Sylwan), whose own daughter died young, is able to comfort her. At length, Agnes dies, and a priest (Anders Ek) arrives at her death bed she returns to the living for a short moment. In a dream-like sequence she asks her family for love and care. For a moment Karin, Maria and the dead Agnes are getting closer to each other, only to be even more distant shortly afterwards. Only Anna is able to embrace and mourn the dead. The film is characterized by flashbacks that return to the life of the protagonists and their memories, tracing each woman's personality to the childhood they spent together. Maria remembers her failed marriage; Agnes remembers her unrequited devotion to their distant mother; Karin struggles with self-harm.

The last flashback, from the deceased Agnes' point of view, is narrated with her diary, and shows her sisters descending upon the house clad in white, like angels. The last words are Agnes whispering "Come what may, this is happiness. I cannot wish for anything better. Now, for a few minutes, I can experience perfection. And I feel profoundly grateful to my life, which gives me so much."

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