Monday, October 12, 2009


The Film: Cries & Whispers

The Director:
Ingmar Bergman

Spine #:

What Is It:
Bergman's absolutely brutal family drama set around the reunion of three estranged sisters. This was a film Bergman insisted be in color, stating that the ever present red of the manor represented "the soul". It was fantastically received by the critics and was one of only eight foreign films to ever be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.

Quick Notes:

1. The sound, lip smacking.

The film starts with a close-up of a face and the sound of lips smacking. But the smacking of lips sounds more like flesh being slowly pulled apart than anything else. And this sound design continues, with each sound effect being given an air of creepiness more often associated with horror films than savagely depressing family films.

2. The set design, the inside of a body.

The red that permeates this film literally makes it feel like the entire series of events takes place inside the human body (or perhaps the mind). There's a bloody aspect to the red of the walls inside the family manor, and with everything awful taking place, you can't help but attribute evil, murderous thoughts to them. Absofuckinglutely perfect choice.

3. Ghosts of the past. A horror movie in the creepiest way.

This has to be the first non-thriller, non-horror, non-gorefest film that had me holding my breath for nearly the entire film. This is a horror film, but without severed heads, or ghosts or rubber-masked monsters, just the horrors of the human soul writ large on the big screen. The actions that each of the main females in this film take are terrifying, and interspersed with the pained howls of the cancer-riddled oldest sister, this is a film to make you cringe, to make you hold your sides and wish you could turn it off. But you won't, it's just too damn good.

4. Nudity.

Every main character in this film gets naked (lucky for us, only one takes a piece of glass to her own vagina) and for good reason. There is a sense of intimacy the shedding of clothes adds, and I imagine Bergman was attempting to expose both the bodies and minds of these, at times, truly horrible characters. I think with the dropping of their clothes, we the audience are given a chance to see past their expensive clothes and cold exteriors, to, ever briefly, connect with them as fellow human beings. When their truly inhuman natures rise to the surface, it creates a breathtaking contrast.

Final Thoughts: This is one gut punch of a film. I found myself watching it in a crowded coffee shop, trying not to gasp out loud as it continued to unfurl. One of the most beautifully constructed pieces of depressing cinema I've ever had the pleasure of watching. I sat in stunned silence through the last forty minutes of this film, hoping it would end, only so the heaviness that weighed me down could be alleviated.

The Devil and Daniel Johnston

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