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
If you're sick of the current trend of having movies use a mostly teal color palette with orange for the explosions, then this is the movie for you. Ingmar Bergman and his cinematographer, Sven Nykvist, use a palette of red, red, red, red, and red as a backdrop for their story of three sisters in circa-1900 Sweden. Agnes (Harriet Andersson) is dying of cancer, and her two sisters Karin (Ingrid Thulin) and Maria (Liv Ullmann) come to comfort her in her final days. Not that they're much comfort, since the whole family is dysfunctional for reasons that are never clearly delineated. And they all have bizarre sexual hangups.
I'm sure I'll be in the minority, but I found that when it comes to dysfunctional families, this movie pales in comparison to Bergman's later Autumn Sonata. There, the characters are real people and it's easy to identify with them. Here, they seem like little more than ciphers standing in for basic human emotions. It doesn't help that the film is grindingly tedious when it isn't being gratuitously creepy (in the creepy old uncle way, not in the horror movie way). What was the point of the "dream" sequence toward the end, anyways? 5/10 for the story, 9/10 for the cinematography, which won Nykvist an Oscar - it's not just the overwhelming use of red that makes the cinematography interesting. Since I think story is worth more than cinematography, at least to me, I give it a six, mainly because it is Bergman and I want to cut him some slack.
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