Cries and Whispers  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Cries and Whispers is a 1973 Swedish film about two sisters who watch over their third sister on her deathbed; both afraid she might die, but both hoping she does. The film was written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. It stars Harriet Andersson, Kari Sylwan, Ingrid Thulin and Liv Ullmann. The film is noted for a gruesome, but undepicted scene of self mutilation.


Cries and Whispers is set at the end of the 19th century on a mansion. It depicts the last days of Agnes (Harriet Andersson) who is in the final stages of cancer and is experiencing heavy pain. Her sisters Maria (Liv Ullmann) and Karin (Ingrid Thulin) have returned to the family home to be with here. They remain distant and cold as their dying sister is reminding them of their life's scars and their own mortality. Only the deeply religious maid Anna (Kari Sylwan), whose only daughter died early, is able to comfort her. When 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, dreams and desires. Maria remembers her adulterous affair with the physician David (Erland Josephson). Agnes remembers her childhood and her enigmatic mother. Karina remembers who she snubbed her hated husband by harming herself. The last flashback visualizes an entry from Agnes' diary shows where the three sisters clad in white stroll together in the park of the family mansion.

Production and reception

Unlike most of Bergman's films, Cries and Whispers uses saturated colour, in particular crimson. For his work on this film, Sven Nykvist won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, and the film was also nominated for Best Costume Design, Best Director, and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Published or Produced. Unusual for a foreign language film, it was also nominated for Best Picture, not for Best Foreign Language Film.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Cries and Whispers" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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