Wow. Cries and Whispers was one of the major Ingmar Bergman films I had never seen, so I was very glad when Nathaniel Rogers, the host and mastermind behind the Hit Me With Your Best Shot series, chose it as this week’s entry. I should have expected, considering the movie’s reputation, and it being a Bergman movie at all, that it was going to be a fascinating and tough sit… I just didn’t expect it to be this powerful. I loved it, and despite it being one of the most intense movies I’ve ever watched, I can’t wait to watch it again.
It is, obviously the story of Agnes, a woman dying of cancer in early XX Century Sweden, and her sisters, who come to be with her in her last days. Frankly, I feel like the movie is way too deep for me to attempt to make any kind of smart commentary about it having only seen it once. It’s a movie about death, love, and faith… basically about some of the most important things in life, and a movie that seems particularly telling about Bergman’s view of the world. The sisters pretty much hate each other; they are all deeply unhappy, and they can barely touch or talk to each other without things turning ugly. The fourth main character in the movie is Anna, the housekeeper, who seems to be the only one capable of true human connection. Two of the movie’s most striking images, and most powerful moments, involve Anna and Agnes, since she is the only one who can calm the sick woman’s pain.
Those two moments are fantastic, but I feel a little out of my depth picking them. Instead, I’ll point to another of my favorite Anna moments, which comes early in the film. We see her praying. We learn that she is an incredibly religious woman, that she had a daughter who died, but she finds solace in God. After she finishes praying, she casually reaches for an apple and takes a bite. She is calm, completely at peace eating the forbidden fruit while she looks at a picture of her deceased daughter. What exactly Begman wants to say about blind and total faith in this movie isn’t really up to me to say, but I love this moment for how economically it introduces us to Anna’s inner life.