Combustible Celluloid
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With: Liv Ullmann, Harriet Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Erland Josephson
Written by: Ingmar Bergman
Directed by: Ingmar Bergman
MPAA Rating: R
Language: Swedish with English subtitles
Running Time: 91
Date: 12/21/1972

Cries and Whispers (1972)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Blood Red

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Strictly a black-and-white man up to that point, the amazing 1972 masterpiece of color and mood, Cries and Whispers was one of director Ingmar Bergman's first forays into color. He packs an emotional punch with his use of stark reds to illustrate this claustrophobic story of Agnes (Harriet Andersson), who is dying of cancer. Her two sisters, Maria (Liv Ullmann) and Karin (Ingrid Thulin) come to stay with her, but find the proximity to death too much of a reminder of their own mortality. Only the maid Anna (Kari Sylwan) seems to show any empathy. The movie comes complete with Bergman's requisite flashbacks and powerful dream sequences.

The great Sven Nykvist rightly won an Oscar for Best Cinematography, and it received nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Costume Design (it lost all four to The Sting). Believe it or not, Roger Corman's company distributed the film in America and turned a nice profit. The Criterion Collection released it on a spectacular DVD, which also contains a recent 52-minute doc made for Swedish television on Bergman's long collaboration with actor Erland Josephson.

In 2015, the Criterion Collection released a Blu-ray edition that gloriously highlights this movie's color cinematography. Extras include a featurette, "Ingmar Bergman: Reflections on Life, Death, and Love with Erland Josephson," an introduction by Bergman, an interview with Harriet Andersson, on-set footage, a video essay, a trailer, and a liner notes essay by Emma Wilson.

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