Cries and Whispers aka Viskningar och rop (Ingmar Bergman, 1972)
When someone thinks about the great Ingmar Bergman many will list his work from the mid-fifties to the late sixties (1957-1966) as his masterpiece period. This person couldn't be more wrong, this director's great work goes until Saraband in 2003. However true Bergman fans like Woody Allen list Cries and Whispers as his favorite film from the Swedish master. Allen is passionate about the man and he even tried successfully twice to do a Bergman film (Interiors and September). For a film lover Cries and Whispers isn't an easy film but such a deep and moving one. It is quite challenging for its viewer to immerse himself in Anna's vision of a dying woman she's taking care of.
On the turn of the 20th Century, Agnes is dying and her sisters come to visit her before her long journey into the other world. This familial reunion brings up many dormant situations between the sisters that are accentuated by the degrading state of Agnes. Her only devoted maid, Anna takes care for her and understands the woman more than her own family. The quarrels of the siblings and the heaviness of the situations is perfectly balanced with the outstanding cinematography of long time collaborator Sven Nykvist. The natural lighting and the crude almost fleshy colours give a superb look to the film. It is so beautiful that it doesn't even looks like the film was made forty years ago. Instead of being staged at perfection like a Dreyer film, Bergman's Cries and Whispers looks natural and classical at the same time. This is the work of artists, the frames are blissed like classical paintings displaying light, life, and beauty. While at the same time we struggle through Agnes' pain in her fight against cancer. However the beauty if the images and the originality of cinematographer Nykvist could have been the ultimate bravura of Cries and Whispers. Well it is not, it is the talented performances and the ensemble cast that surrounds Bergman that strikes the most. Harriet Andersson, Liv Ullmann, Ingrid Thulin, Kari Sylwan, and Erland Josephson are the great performers but it is Kari Sylwan as the maid Anna that demonstrates depth more than any other in this amazing work.
Finally, Cries and Whispers is one of the many gems that were made in the 1970's. A time where American movies gain in quality and that gave back to the directors the central place in moviemaking in Hollywood. Foreign films that used to be made by directors and controlled by themselves were less regarded when American directors made better films than they used to. However, Bergman, Herzog, and many more made wonderful films in these years. Cries and Whispers might not be as known as Persona or The Seventh Seal in the Bergman catalog it holds to the test of time and should be celebrated more than it is actually. At least it deserved a superb transfer on DVD by Criterion Collection.