by Bergman, Ingmar

  • Cries and Whispers

Genre: Drama

Cast 4 male 5 female

Length Full

Set Interior

Licence World ex. Sweden


The setting is an old manor house in Central Sweden in the early 1900s.  The characters are three sisters and a maid.  Two of the sisters, Karin and Maria have come to visit their sick sister who is dying of cancer at the age of 37.  She is cared for by her maid, Anna, with whom she has lived alone for many years.

At the opening it is dawn and inside the house the clocks tick loudly while voices are heard whispering.  The rooms are all decorated in red.  Maria, dressed all in white, has fallen asleep in a chair. In the next room Agnes awakes to a new day of pain.

The story is made up of scenes of the gradual decline and death of Agnes and its aftermath interspersed by flashbacks of the women’s reveries or memories. Each flashback is signalled by a dissolve to red.  In one, Maria discovers her husband has tried to stab himself; she makes little attempt to help him. This scene is preceded by Maria in conversation with the doctor who attends Agnes.  The second flashback is of Karin at dinner with her husband.  At the meal, which is conducted in silence, she fumbles with a wineglass and breaks it. In the bedroom she uses a splinter of the glass to mutilate herself by cutting her vagina. When her husband comes into the room she smears her face with her blood. Other scenes show Agnes’ frustrated love for her mother and Anna’s memories of her dead daughter.

The death is slow and painful. When she is conscious and relatively comfortable the sisters help to comb her hair and read to her. When she is ravaged with pain the two sisters shun her and only Anna comforts her.

Agnes is laid to rest by two old women. The minister prays at her bedside for her to intercede with God for the living by asking for his grace and a meaning to life.

Following the death Karin tries to focus on practical matters. Maria seeks her out and for a brief moment the sisters embrace. Karin tries later to rekindle this feeling but Maria excuses herself, saying her husband is waiting.

In the night following Agnes’ death, Anna hears faint sounds coming from Agnes’ room.  When she enters she finds the dead woman has been crying. She summons both sisters who turn away in disgust and fear. Anna climbs into the bed and takes the body in her arms creating a pieta pose. Agnes’ fears are soothed and she finally goes to her rest.

After the funeral, the sisters are ready to leave.  They discuss what to do about Anna and tell her she can pick a memento from Agnes’ belongings. She wants nothing but Maria presses some money into her hand.  She curtsies.

The end is a flashback with Anna reading from Agnes’ diary. The passage is visualised with Agnes speaking. All four women are walking together in the park. The three sisters sit in a rocker and Anna swings them gently.  In a moment of epiphany Agnes declares how grateful she is life has given her so much.

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