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Director: Ingmar Bergman
Cast: Harriet Andersson, Kari Sylwan, Ingrid Thulin, Liv Ullmann
Length: 91 min
Release Date: Mar 31, 2015
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.67:1
Audio: Swedish: LPCM Mono
Audio: English: Dolby Digital Mono
- New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Introduction by director Ingmar Bergman from 2001
- New interview with actor Harriet Andersson, conducted by historian Peter Cowie
- On Solace, a new video essay by filmmaker :: kogonada
- Behind-the-scenes footage with commentary by Cowie
- Ingmar Bergman: Reflections on Life, Death, and Love with Erland Josephson (2000), a fifty-two-minute interview with Bergman and his longtime collaborator
- Essay by film scholar Emma Wilson
Ingmar Bergman is arguably most well known for his explorations of the female psyche and placing his characters in emotionally charged situations that are supplemented by the outstanding cinematography of Sven Nykvist. With the exception of Persona (1966), Cries and Whispers (1972) is perhaps the best example of the seminal director’s ability to explore these themes. At the time of Cries and Whisper’s release, it was nominated for five Academy Awards, making it one of Bergman’s most internationally recognized successes. What is it that made Cries and Whispers
so notable, and does the film hold up today?
Cries and Whispers tells the story of four women, three sisters and their maid, and primarily takes place in the sisters’ mansion as one of them, Agnes (Harriet Andersson) is on her deathbed coming to terms with her imminent fate. Many scenes in the film take the form of flashbacks as the sisters remember emotionally salient moments in their lives which have shaped them and their current attitudes to the situation and tensions they now face.Indeed, the plot of the film is quite straight forward. As Agnes’s condition grows progressively more dire, her sisters Maria (Liv Ullmann) and Karin (Ingrid Thulin) alternate staying by her side, struggling to comfort Agnes while facing their own inter-sibling conflicts which are enhanced by the fear of death that Agnes’s condition promotes. While Maria and Karin engage with their awkward and often confrontational relationship, their maid Anna (Kari Sylwan) rises up as the only one in the mansion who can provide any sort of comfort to Agnes. The events of the present in the film, as Agnes gets progressively worse and eventually passes away, are interspersed with flashbacks of each woman’s youth as they spent time with each other and different minor characters in the film. These flashbacks do not exactly provide answers to the women’s problems or tense relationships so much as they present emotionally charged, subjective memories telling of heated affairs and failed marriages (Maria), ceaseless devotion to their mother (Agnes), and surreal and vengeful moments of self-harm (Karin). Besides the pervading and explosive scenes of emotion and psychological melodrama of the film, Cries and Whispers is quite notable for Bergman and Nykvist’s astute use of color. Colors are mostly muted and reflect the dour situations comprising the world of the film; that is, with the exception of the vibrant reds found throughout. These are primarily found in the walls and furnishings of the mansion and the film’s interesting use of fades to red, rather than the fades to black of more traditional film editing. These deeply saturated reds contrast the film’s muted exteriors and supplement the fiery feelings of the film’s main characters and their memories. Their feelings are also conveyed through Bergman and Nykvist’s trademark, expressive closeups.
Predictably, Cries and Whispers looks amazing in Criterion’s new restoration. The restoration manages to retain all of the fine grain and beautiful textures of celluloid. The complexity of the famous red interior color scheme, which used to blend into a very limited pallet of red tones on the old DVDs, now boasts a much wider spectrum of nuanced shades. Detail and image depth are greatly improved as well over all previous home video releases. Film grain looks natural, and there is no sign of edge enhancement. All-in-all a triumph of digital film restoration.
Criterion gives us the original Swedish track and also the original English dub track. Both are presented in mono and sound full and clear with crisp, easy to follow dialog and no age-related anomalies. Generally speaking the audio restoration is as impressive as the video.
Aside from the fact that this release is without expert audio commentary, the extra features given us by Criterion are of their usual excellence.
First, is a 7-minute video introduction by director Ingmar Bergman from 2001, taken from an interview with Marie Nyreröd, in which the director describes how the concept of Cries and Whispers came into being and how he wrote the script.
Next is a newly recorded, 20-minute video interview with actor Harriet Andersson. The interview is conducted by historian Peter Cowie and features the actress describing the making of Cries and Whispers, her working relationship with Bergman, and her fellow actresses.
This release also features On Solace, a new 13-minute video essay on Cries and Whispers by filmmaker :: kogonada.
Next is a 34-minute reel of behind-the-scenes footage from Cries and Whispers with commentary by Cowie on the history and making of the film. The commentary is very informative, and it is nice to see Bergman directing his actresses, and clowning around with them on the set.
Also included is a 52-minute video interview from Ingmar Bergman: Reflections on Life, Death, and Love (2000) in which he is joined by his friend and long-time colleague Erland Josephson. Bergman and Josephson discuss everything from film and theater, to their children, their many loves and their feelings on impending death.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer and a written essay by film scholar Emma Wilson.
Cries and Whispers is an emotionally and psychologically riveting tour de force. Much like in Persona, Bergman and Nykvist make masterful use of closeups to express the emotional states of the film’s characters. In this case they also supplement tight framings on characters’ faces with vibrant reds that further echo their fiery subjective experience as they struggle to come to terms with the fact of human mortality. The film looks stunning, as can be expected by a Sven Nykvist collaboration, one for which he was awarded the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. More than just looking the part however, Cries and Whispers captures at all levels the powerful and impassioned struggle of three sisters, their maid, and their shared, tormented experience.