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Cries and Whispers (1972) Movie review

Updated on November 25, 2011
Cries and Whispers Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Cries and Whispers Directed by Ingmar Bergman

If you have wondered where the idea of 'experiencing cinema rather than just watching it' has come from, this Cries and Whispers movie review will reveal why. Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman begins with the film with the central character writing in her diary, "It is early Monday morning and I am in pain." Anyone who has been afflicted by even the most trivial kinds of anxieties about life must watch or buy Cries and Whispers.

Facts about Cries and Whispers (Viskningar och Rop), 1972

Director of Cries and Whispers: Ingmar Bergman

Language: Swedish

Cast of Cries and Whispers: Harriet Anderson, Liv Ullman, Kary Sylwan and Ingrid Thulin

Genre: Drama

Awards: Oscar for Best Cinematography, 1974

Cries and Whispers Trivia: According to Bergman the use of the color red in the film seeks to symbolize the soul. Since his childhood Bergman has imagined the soul to be made of membranes with different shades of red colour.

Reasons why you should watch or buy Cries and Whispers

Cries and Whispers is a cinematic masterpiece in every sense possible. The film marks the emergence of cinematic tradition in Europe which engrafts simultaneously both the visuals and the narrative beautifully in the larger story telling framework. Cries and Whispers manages to reach out and emotionally stir everyone irrespective of the spaces and conditions they occupy. Like most of the other Bergman films, this movie too is deeply imbued with a sense of tragedy, trauma and loss. However, despite the consistent engagement with such dark themes, Bergman is able to weave a poignant story about human emotions and the dilemmas that all of us have to confront eventually in life, either about death, old-age, love or faith.

The movie Cries and Whispers revolves around the relationship of three sisters, each trapped within their own personal turmoil. Whereas Agnes, the youngest sisters is dying of Cancer, the elder sisters Maria and Karin along with taking care of their sick sister are trying to live through their own horrors of disastrous married lives. This movie is an elegy on pain and suffering, both physical and emotional. The inability to find peace in medicine, spirituality or organized religion by any of the sisters further unravels the sheer hopelessness of their situations. Yet, the possibility of closure gleams through moments of silent intimacy, touch, sighs, whispers and cries. It is the human condition which is explored at its barest and the most minimalistic level.

1. Skillful actors

The film stars some of the most acclaimed and skillful actors who have not only been revered in their home country Sweden, but even on the platform ofWorld Cinema they belong to the league of the most celebrated actors. The portrayal of Maria and Karin by Liv Ullman and Ingrid Thulin brilliantly negotiates and jostles the feelings of love, hate and anger simultaneously.

2. Cinematography of Cries and Whispers

The cinematography and the use of light and colour is spell binding. The colour red especially is dominant; the mansion in which the sisters stay is entirely draped in a bright lurid red colour. It appears as if the walls and the furniture over the years have soaked in the miseries of its residents. The brightness of red is consistently juxtaposed with the insipidity of white and black. The interaction between this rich colour palette and the use lights and shadows open up the space for symbolic and metaphorical interpretations in the film.

3. Background score of Cries and Whispers

Silence is one of the most important parts of the film. The disquieting silence is used to communicate deep emotions of pain and suffering in the film. Silence is effused with feelings of love, anger, hate and sympathy and is beautifully fleshed out by the use of Cello which eventually fades into absolute silence and nothingness.

4. Themes

While dealing with the stories and lives of three women the movie Cries and Whispers inexorably delves into the themes of gender and sexuality. Questions of homosexuality, failed marriages and infidelity are explicitly explored in the film.

5. Emotional Appeal

Cries and Whispers deals with a rather exceptional relationship between three sisters and their married lives, the emotions that they experience transgresses this exceptionality. It is a film which at the end touches upon the questions which daunt each and every one of us.

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Roger Erbert’s Cries and Whispers movie review

"Bergman never made another film this painful. To see it is to touch the extremes of human feeling. It is so personal, so penetrating of privacy, we almost want to look away"

Source: Rotten Tomatoes


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    • princesswithapen profile image

      princesswithapen 6 years ago

      Hi Eiddwen

      I'm glad you liked this movie review on Cries and Whispers. Thanks for stopping by on this one!


    • princesswithapen profile image

      princesswithapen 6 years ago


      "...difficult for me to watch.." - a very apt description of the viewing experience that many have after watching Wild Strawberries.


    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      A great review which I vote up/useful/interesting.

      I also look forward to reading many more hubs by you.

      Take care


    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      princesswithapen-I have seen Wild Strawberries: once only -it was very difficult for me to watch and I will likely not see it again. But I am glad I saw this famous title by this master.

    • princesswithapen profile image

      princesswithapen 6 years ago

      You're right, Cogerson. Bergman can sometimes be painful and emotionally draining. But it is this very experience combined with Ingmar Bergman's craft and technique of film making that has sustained his movies to date. Thanks for stopping by!


    • princesswithapen profile image

      princesswithapen 6 years ago

      Flora, have you seen Bergman's Wild Strawberries? I personally think that it was a little laborious to watch but it took me to a completely different era. Masters like Bergman aren't made anymore these days!


    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 6 years ago from Virginia

      Another classic Bergman movie....I have seen this movie one time....I found it very well made...very real...and somewhat painful to watch. A movie people should watch at least once....not sure when I will ever take the time to watch it again....but I agree with all 5 of your points.

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      I've seen a number of Bergman's films including this one. It is not my favourite of his work, but very well made.

      By the way-my favourite is The Seventh Seal.