A dream-like existential drama, it follows the story of three sisters, one of whom is dying of cancer. The other two care for their ailing sibling, and it is their shifting relationship that defines the drama, which like Bergman’s earlier works The Silence (1963) and Persona (1966), as well as his later film Autumn Sonata (1978), revolves around the emotional depths and symbolism found within the complex relationships between women.
For a filmmaker so often associated with black and white, Cries and Whispers glows with saturated colour, and frequently returns to a deep and lavish crimson. One of the most striking uses of colour in the history of cinema, this darkening period piece features an almost hypnotic use of red, which is used to journey further into the mystery of the film’s reckoning with death.
Starring the iconic Liv Ullman – who starred in other classic Bergman films such as Persona and Autumn Sonata, and who received an honorary Oscar this year – as Maria, Ingrid Thulin (Wild Strawberries, Winter Light) as Karin, and Harriet Andersson (Through A Glass Darkly) as Agnes, Cries and Whispers is a masterful film from a pioneer of cinema which has, at its troubled heart, performances that delve into the wonder and horror of mortality.