I don't know how many times I watched this movie which was made in 1972. It became like the Grateful Dead and those tie dyed freaks that follow something from town to town. When Cries and Whispers left one theater and moved to another one, I'd go see it again. I'm not talking about traveling from Tucson to Tucumcarry, but it was still a few miles on some occasions.

Ingmar Bergman is a freak. Ingmar Bergman is a genius. You know that he has spit on the world of film and now only directs plays? That surprises me none. It was always theater (as you fancy folks say) to Ingmar. You could tell, because there was no god awful background music or fancy jump scenes. No, there was only the lighting and the costume and the acting. He did play around with the camera angles from time to time, but that was not the meat in this little pie. Not at all.

The sustenance in a Bergman work was primarily in the faces of the actors. And none was better than Liv Ullman at giving him that face he wanted. He craved that look. And she was so damn good at that look.

Vid der Sveedish accent: "Hey, look at me, baby! You've got a sister in there who is dying of cancer. And what I need here, babes, is that look of, 'What's this telling me about my death one day?' Can you give me that look?"

She could.

The primary color in this movie is red. The house is white, but there is red everywhere. Drapes flow in the breeze, spilling blood every time they rustle. And, in case you tried to forget about old Father Time, there are clocks ticking every fucking where. No matter where you look, tic toc tic toc.

Kids: Here’s an idea! Make up a drinking game about the clocks and rent this move, if you can find it. Oh, what? The shelves are full of Hanky Panky III? I should have known.



Agnes, played by Harriet Anderson, is on her deathbed. The two sisters have come back to watch over her as she dies. Maria is the sister played by Ullman. Ingrid Thulin plays the other sister, Karin. (There's a name that pops up a lot in Bergman's work. Ready for a test?) And the servant lady who has been looking after the dying sister while the other two have been living their own lives is played by Kari Sylwan. Her name in the movie is Anna.

The entire movie takes place in this house of death, with flashbacks to childhood and dreams of other worlds. The dying sister, Agnes, seems to come off the best in terms of human kindness. Her memories consist of the relationship she had with the mother of these three.

Ullman's character, Maria, is the most capricious of the bunch. She has flashbacks of screwing around on her husband, and you can tell that she fairly guiltless about it all.

Thulin's character, Karin, has one of the most haunting scenes in the movie. (Was it this scene which brought me back time and time again?) She's so disgusted with her husband's attempts to have sex that she takes a piece of broken glass and slashes up her cookie. It is not pretty, but I'm pretty damn sure it's meaningful.

The housemaid becomes the most spiritual force in the death process. Anna is almost like a kid in her faith and her attention to Agnes.

But ol’ man death, he's a comin' and he don't be caring about you're little deal, mon. So Agnes dies in a scene from hell. You don't like thinking about the throes of death? You might want to walk on down to The Mummy, where death is a game. It's no carnival here, my friend.

The most powerful emotion that I remember from this film is hatred. The healthy sisters hate the dying sister because they perceive her to have been first in their parents' affections, first in happiness, and now first to be free of what (through the prism of their own suffering) hateful life.

Agnes hates her death, the putridity and ugliness of it, the and submissive and almost dementedly loyal Anna, her sisters, malicious, capricious and full of life.

But worse of all is the profound, poisonous hatred between Maria and Karin. On Karin's side the emotion is deep, burning and complex - she longs for her sister's love to an almost erotic degree yet recoils from her constant cruelty, the mind games that she plays and the callous pleasure she takes in torturing her husband, her family and all who come within the scope of her emotional influence.

Maria is cold loathing personified. She hasn't a genuinely positive feeling in her body. She is reflective - one can only bounce one's own feelings from her, any meaninglful communication on an emotional level is inconceivable. She is ruthless and vicious while at the same time being captivating, charming, beautiful, and the closest to being tolerably content of any of the characters of the film. Her character is chilling, and played with chilling litheness by a radiant Ullman. She scared the hell out of me.

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