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Friday, August 28, 2009

Cries and Whispers

            Cries and Whispers

Where does a tear emerge from? is it from tiny pores of the eye or from the thousand invisible pores of the mind? does it drop off from the shivering body like wind shattering the water on the tree or does it ascend down like rain when the grey clouds of solitude cover the soul? does it seep from the floors of the spirit drenching the mind or does it break the walls of the eye and collide into the being? Where does a tear emerge from? a tear emerges from truth. Yes truth. We cry at the moment of truth, the truth of an intolerable pain, the truth of an unbearable revelation, the truth of an irreparable loss, the truth of an irreversible moment. When left alone in the dark room with just a candle of truth we all cry without being able to handle the brightness of that tiny candle. I am an atheist, but I believe truth is god, crying is a prayer and tears are an offering. And whisper? whisper emerges from our most secret chambers, any whisper is an indulgence with a secret, a whisper is the wind which blows into the keyhole of a guarded room, a whisper hides more than what it reveals. Ingmar Bergman made a movie in 1972 called Cries and Whispers (Viskningar och rop- Swedish) which has become the benchmark of art that cinema is, and for years people have interpreted it with a hundred emotions. My interpretation literally translates Cries and Whispers into Truths and secrets and its infinite possibilities. A behavioural study of the human mind with respect to reality and disguise, a peep inside the well of the dark emotions, relationships, hypocrisies and insecurities. An artist’s impression of the human mind. A tale which takes you a ride into the complexities but teaches more about the path left behind. A fable amidst all its morbidity proposes selfless love as the only virtue to sustain life.

The film opens with Agnes a middle age spinster who is on the verge of death, a disease is slowly eating her insides, causing moments of tremendous pain and agony. She is cared by her two sisters Karin, Maria who have come taking a break from their daily lives to be with their sister. Then there is the fourth women who completes the circle, Anna a long time servant who takes total care of Agnes in her hour of pain.  The story is the exploration of the insides of these four women who live together in a old Swedish manor house. We slowly learn about the human beings they are, for Agnes pain is an everyday suffering she requests comfort in the presence of her sisters, but her sisters Karin and Maria slowly we learn, are women with shallow and pretentious traits. They are physically and mentally distant from each other and except for their sorry faces there is nothing they feel from the heart for the sufferings of Agnes. Karin is in total disgust with others, she has lost the belief in love or touch, she loathes herself and everybody around her in secrecy. Maria too distains herself from her sister but she is very obvious and weak, not able to care for others because of her self-centeredness, she is unable to sympathise for anyone. But the drama of love and care unfolds in between them everyday with Anna being the only true soul in the house who reaches out with the warmth of love. In non linear sequences we slowly learn about these three women who are somehow are the observers of a gradual death. Maria has been infidel to the man who truly loves her and Karin has a painful history of a disturbed childhood and a fruitless married life. Anna a mother who lost her child, lives with the sisters taking care and giving out love. With the plot firmly set, Bergman slowly reveals the human mind which dwells in the constant battle of love and hate. The characters break to tears, not able to handle the pain both physically and mentally. The intrusion of the thinking is so close that we are not able to handle such realities that are usually not discussed or agreed upon. The death finally happens after enough revelations, screams, cries, whispers and pain. The house is closed down and the inmates leave back to their false lives and Anna the only true soul who expected nothing takes only the diary of Agnes which reads or paints the climax where the three sisters are seen happily on a swing on a perfect autumn day. Agnes being comforted by the presence of her loved ones, and looking at the distant green meadows, says “I feel profoundly grateful to my life, which gives me so much." The screen closes as our heads drop down, down enough to look inside ourselves.

This is not a movie, this is an experience. Not entertainment but enlightenment of some kind. It should be watched with the indulgence of someone looking at a piece of art hanging on the walls of an ancient museum. Or like reading a very intense literature. Never before a movie was so intruding, never before it explored the dark state of human condition, at times becoming tough for us to endure it. Bergman chose women as his subjects as the women mind always has deeper kept secrets, there are men in the movie but not as intense as its women. The performances requires the weirdest emotions to be portrayed on screen. In a scene Karin and Maria enter into an confront, Karen reveals how she hated Maria right from her childhood, the most intense scene of the movie. The reactions that Karin gives out after revealing a truth disturbs you than words ever can describe. The movie is set in a house which is filled with blood red walls, carpets, and in a set up which actually replicates the bloody vacuum of the human mind. The vision of the movie is claustrophobic that at times you need some breath. The cinematography captures very very deep close-ups trying to capture every single emotions through the face. The film projects itself into the insides of the eye than the outsides. Later you understand that the film was not even made for you to watch, but it was the work of filmmaker whose vision in life was to capture everything that he believed to be documented. Ingmar Bergman, is a phenomenon who for decades has inspired all those filmmakers who wished to take the art to a greater level, to a more profound and honest level.

For sight the movie looks like a very bleak tale, then you think of Anna the poor servant who knows nothing but simple, straightforward, and selfless love. Not the selfless love that we show to the people around us and the people whom we already love, but the spiritually selfless love on every human. Anna would have cared for Maria and Karen too, because she is made only by love. Anna is the soul of the movie, and she silently proposes love as a remedy to all the misfortunes of the mind. Anna is an ideal image that we don't get to see around, because selfless love on every human is tougher to practice than said. There is this dream sequence where the dead Agnes wakes up and calls for her sisters to hold her hands and give her the warmth, but the sisters refuse and scream at the corpse and run away in disgust. Anna comes to Agnes. Anna makes Agnes sleep on her naked bosoms, giving the sufferer the warmth of the human flesh. The corpse of Agnes is shown lying down on Anna’s breasts in comfort and love. It is in this particular scene we understand the magnificence of the movie, for the movie reveals more than it hides, it cries more than it whispers, for the movie not only locks you down in a room filled with darkness, but also lights a candle.


Sridhar V said...

Am not a great movie critic. I don't watch movies of this caliber either. I need 5 good songs, some fast paced action sequences, and at the end of the day I should enjoy my 3 hrs of entertainment. But I'm just loving your way of writing.

Keep blogging. Hope to c a lot of frequent updates from you !!

Vignesh said...


Movies were invented for entertainment,gr8 tat you are clear about what you like in them, a soothing way to forget life n just enjoy.

Somehow i got caught into the other side, into movies that reminds me more of life, giving me no false hopes,it kinda pains frankly. But i like it, i think there is a search in these movies, they help you grow. And you need not have a "calibre" to watch this... these movies are only a step ahead all you had to do is take that single step..

Give a try da, ill be glad. And also, after this ill be writing often:)

Alphonsa Berchmans said...

//Never before a movie was so intruding//
:) Vicky I would say the same for your review! Intruding and intriguing as well!
Absolutely well-written da this one!
...and I guess I've always loved your first para's :D

Aravindan said...

Lovely write up dude! :D

The film was a devastating experience. Bergman is THE man. I watched 'Autumn Sonata' too. Not on par with this film, but a great film indeed. Check it out!

Vignesh said...

@ Alphy,

i just interpreted the movie with my own words, i think the impact of the movie is a factor. I watch a lot these days, they r good but not all makes me write, Bergman did.

Try watchin it too...


//Lovely write up dude! :D

Neenga sonna serthaan boss! Devastating is the word, u cant be dishonest with the movie.

I liked 'Persona' but not as C&W, will give autmn a try too.. thanks 4 d sugg da :)

uma kumar said...

hmm..lucky u ..get to watch good films...

Vignesh said...


Long times since u commented here :) neengalum parunga, its all over the internet :)

roguegene said...

Nicely written.. Cries and Whispers was one of the first movies that brought me into watching world movies.. I am huge fan of bergman... Loved this, fanny and alexander and autumn sonata.. Love all his other movies too.. The climax of this movie was very enlightening.. When I watched this movie, I was very confused at times about the fickle nature of the sisters, they smile at times and sneer at times.. I didnt get it much.. I didnt know if this was the emotion that was intended.. But after watching the most optimistic climax ever, I realized that those were not wayward emotions that i felt, but very deliberately crafted by the creator to make me feel that way.. It was like Dostoevsky's writing..

Vignesh said...


Thanks for sharing your love for Bergman, i was lucky enough to understand the film even while i was watching it. I think its a straightforward take on emotions here, i felt Persona was even more complex.

I think Dostoevsky and Bergman coincide in one line, in the line of art.

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.

Madhan said...

Hi Vignesh,
C&W is such an awesome movie. Bergman was an excellent craftsman, and this one is a real classy film from him. And your review was well written, liked the flow and your views a lot esp. the first para..

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