Two estranged sisters, Ester and Anna, and Anna's 10-year-old son travel to the Central European country on the verge of war. Ester becomes seriously ill and the three of them move into a hotel in a small town called Timoka.
In the midst of a civil war, former violinists Jan and Eva Rosenberg, who have a tempestuous marriage, run a farm on a rural island. In spite of their best efforts to escape their homeland, the war impinges on every aspect of their lives.
In turn-of-the-century Sweden, cancer-stricken, dying Agnes is visited in her isolated rural mansion by her sisters Karin and Maria. As Agnes' condition deteriorates and pain management becomes increasingly more difficult, fear and revulsion grip the sisters, who seem incapable of empathy, and Agnes' only comfort and solace comes from her maid Anna. As the end draws closer, long repressed feelings of grudging resentment and mistrust cause jealousy, selfishness, and bitterness between the siblings to surface. Written by
The only Best Picture Oscar nominee that year not to be nominated in any of the acting categories. See more »
[All goofs for this title are spoilers.]
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Come here, Marie. Come. Look in the mirror. You're beautiful. Perhaps even more than when we were together. But you've changed and I want you to see how. Now your eyes cast quick, calculating, side glances. You used to look ahead straightforwardly, openly, without disguise. Your mouth has a slightly hungry, dissatisfied expression. It used to be so soft. Your complexion is pale now. You wear makeup. Your fine, wide brow has four lines above each eye now. You can't see them in this light, but ...
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It was a haunting and shattering film experience, as promised.
I've never before seen a Bergman film, however, judging by the praise awarded to "Cries and Whispers," I decided to try this one out first. And I couldn't have been more rewarded. The film, even though it clocked in at a short ninety-one minutes, I estimate less than half of those minutes contained dialogue. As Gloria Swanson put it in "Sunset Boulevard," they "had faces." And how they used them! The facial expressions and mannerisms the characters in this film used were breathtaking. Going from Liv Ullman's smug, teasing grin in her flashback scene with the doctor to Ingrid Thulin's anguish-cum-rhapsody in the scene with the broken class (that undoubtedly stays in the minds of all who see the film for one reason or another!) is truly incredible. Each character uses their body language to convey the meaning of their characters and their situations. In fact, I could have watched the film in Swedish without English subtitles and still have known perfectly well what was going on. The dialogue was truly superfluous and unnecessary. Combining the characters' body language with Bergman's masterful use of color to convey the personalities of the characters as well as their environment in general is something that (1) I've scarcely, if ever, seen used in a film before and (2) could not stop marvelling at its brilliance.
The performances were top notch. All of the performances by the four leading ladies were exceptional and perfect in every way. The homoeroticism that pervades the film is perfectly captured by the ladies in a manner that is not sexual, but rather something the farthest possible being from sexuality.
I do not even need to speak of Sven Nykvist's cinematography beyond that it is perfection incarnate.
I am now convinced that Bergman is a master, and I cannot wait to see another of his films! Sure, the film is depressing and certainly is not for those who think that "The Italian Job" is the best film of the year, however, for those who can just watch the relationships of the sisters unfold in all its splendor and anguish, this is truly a work of art rivalling those of any medium.
MY RATING: 10/10 (and I don't give tens lightly)
HIGHLIGHTS: Liv Ullmann, Harriet Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Kari Sylwan, Sven Nykvist's cinematography, Bergman's use of color and his direction in general
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