Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Drama Cries and Whispers (1972) (18)

Cries and Whispers (1972) (18)

Cries and Whispers (1972) is an atmospheric drama concerning 2 sisters and the maid awaiting the inevitable death of their other sister set in turn of the century Sweden at the Manor House. Directed by former powerhouse Swedish Filmmaker Ingmar Bergman and starring Ingrid Thulin, Liv Ulman, Hariet Anderson, Kari Sylwan, Erland Josephson, George Arlin, Henning Mortizen, Anders Ek, Linn Ulman and Rosanne Mariano.

Agnes (Hariet Anderson) is the ailing sister who is in constant pain every time she wakes up. Yet she isn’t cynical, instead preferring to remember other times in her life particularly those regarding her mother and sisters at the Manor House. Her sisters Karin (Ingrid Thulin), Maria (Liv Ulman) and her loyal maid Anna (Kari Sylwan) takes shifts watching over her and also have a few memories of their own that took place at the house. Maria remember an indiscretion that almost ruined her marriage, Karin remembers when she realised what kind of a marriage she was in and Anna remembers how self absorbed the two sisters were to the point they were not able to offer their dying sister any kind of affection. As Agnes’s condition gets worse (looking slightly better than Linda Blair from the Exorcist (1973) ) and her screaming more heart wrenching, all seem helpless only managing to hold her down and comfort her temporarily. Meanwhile the beautiful but selfish Maria makes attempts to reconcile with her beautiful but cold sister Karin and Anna silently and nobly deals with everyone during this horrible time.

The faithful actresses of the Ingmar Bergman era, Ingrid Thulin, Liv Ulman and Hariet Anderson are hauntingly brilliant. Director Ingmar Bergman uses these actresses in most of his films, always playing even more different characters than their previous films. They get away with it because they always play their respective characters so effectively and this time was no different. Ingrid Thulin’s Karin shows such emotional coldness in the unsatisfied wife role that she looks almost ghostlike and inventively monsterlike (e.g. watch the bedroom scene). Liv Ulman’s Maria typifies flawed beauty as the selfish, self involved princess that it even frightens her (e.g. watch when Agnes hugs her). Hariet Anderson’s dying, weak, lovely Agnes inspires the most sympathy. Not due to her suffering, but because even though in pain she seems to be dealing with it better than those living around her. An example being a lovely memory she has of when her sisters came to visit her at the Manor, which was a nice departure from the death and negativity that lives at the house. Last but nowhere close to being least of the main characters Kari Sylwan’s Anna is the sweet, sensitive, loving, patient maid, who like the Manor has been there through most of the sister’s memories and knows just about as much. She is also willing to do certain duties that you would think should be done by Agnes’ sisters (e.g. when she jumps into bed and hold Agnes caringly to comfort her). Other characters it must be said such as the mother (played by Liv Ulman), the doctor (Erland Josephson) and the husbands Fredrik (Georg Arlin) and Joakin (Henning Mortizen) effectively play their vital roles.

Ingmar Bergman wrote that when he was a child, he thought of the soul as a big blue as smoke winged liked creature on the outside, but red as blood on the inside. The interiors by Production Designer Marik Vos creates just that (e.g. the exterior of the Manor at start of the film and the interiors of the Manor). A massive deal was made about the cinematography of the film, with the Director of Photography even winning an Oscar for it; even though it was undoubtedly magnificent, you have to ask “What pictures was he taking?” The answer is this redder than red in every room, interior of one of the most important characters of the film The Manor. This not only adds to the stunning visual effect of the film, but subconsciously gets you behind a wall that the characters have carefully constructed (their soul).

Cries and Whispers is a fantastic haunting “If these walls could talk” drama that it would scare you even more than the average horror film. The film doesn’t just examine Karin, Mari, Agnes and Anna in great detail; it goes deep inside them in order to give the audience the most accurate description of their character. This is what is most frightening, the soul of a human being, what really lies beneath the house, the clothes, the skin and the organs. At times it can be even too difficult to take, but Ingmar Bergman doesn’t normally shy away from difficult topics and I am very grateful he doesn’t here. I recommend this to anyone who is a fan of watching a film wanting to get something out of it, rather than watching the normal depressing “I don’t have much longer to live” or “My family is very dysfunctional” drama. Go ahead treat yourself for once.

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