You can interpret Cries and Whispers through a whole religious metaphysic, and no doubt Bergman himself would; but latterly this has been something of a red herring for a director whose talent lies more in straight psychodrama. None of the films immediately preceding have been more visually seductive than Cries, so much so that form, repeatedly, gets the better of content. Mostly Bergman is able to regain control, which is where the scenes that make the film come in: for instance, the short sequence where Thulin, in period costume, is undressed by her maid, which says all there is to say about clothes, disguise, repression. Cries is about bodies, female bodies, in extremity of pain, isolation or neglect (the cards are heavily stacked). Karin (Thulin) mutilates her cunt with a piece of broken glass and, stretched out on her marital bed, smiles through the blood she's smeared across her mouth at her husband in celebration of a marriage that's a 'tissue of lies'. Maria (Ullman) finds herself lacking a thread that would tie her irreversibly to life. Bergman's hour remains resolutely that of the wolf.
Cast and crew
Henning Moritzen Erland Josephson Ingrid Thulin Liv Ullmann Kari Sylwan Harriet Andersson