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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
Death is one of those things that no one really likes to talk about. When a family member or loved one is terminally ill, the lives of all that surround the individual change, sometimes forever.
This film deals with a terminally ill woman, her devoted servant, and the woman's two sisters, brought together by the tragedy. As the women live through the last days of their dying sister, the superficial layers of each begin to disintegrate, and we eventually see the very core of their being --and it isn't always pretty.
Also not pretty are the deathbed scenes. I found them harrowing, painful and frighteningly realistic. No one at the bedside had any sense of the purpose of so much pain -- not even the priest.
Bergman uses silence like other directors use explosions. The ticking and chiming of the clock are almost startling as time drags on and on. Everyone waits for the inevitable, and the inevitable takes it time.
The cinematography is extraordinary, as is the use of color. Red is used to an almost overwhelming degree, but also used to perfection. When I think of red, several ideas or images come to mind, such as blood, passion, and heat. Each of these are presented in various degrees in this film.
The redeeming figure in this film is the servant. Her love for the dying woman is completely unconditional and selfless. It was for her grief that I wept.
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