Agnes is dying of cancer. During her very last days alive Agnes is visited by her two sisters Karin and Maria. This is the longest amount of time that the sisters have spent with each other for a very long time, and because of the circumstances some repressed feelings are coming out.
The Oscar-winning "Viskningar och rop" is a movie that I had on my very first to-buy-list, but I was just not mature enough to get into Bergman then. But what I had heard about the movie was so intriguing that the title always stuck with me and I knew that I would get it one of these days. It took about 6 years, but now I finally have it, and I watched it as soon as it arrived. Ingmar Bergman has some great films and some not-so-great (mediocre, I suppose), but "Viskningar och rop" managed to deliver top-notch work from the director.
The story is far from complex and that's what makes it such a solid watch. It's about the dying of a sister, Agnes, and her other two sisters Karin and Maria visiting her to be with her during her final days alive. The three sisters have never been very close but now that they are spending time together, with one sister dying, things they have repressed for years and years are finally coming out. Meanwhile we have Anna, the helper, who has a very strong bond with the dying Agnes that she seems to be the only real comfort around.
This is one of few films in color I have seen from Bergman and I'm always expecting them to be inferior in terms of style compared to his black and white films, but "Viskningar och rop" might actually be one of the most visually impressive of his films because of the color, and especially the use of red. Bergman himself said he used the color red so extensively because he grew up believing that red was the color of the soul. To me the red in this film represents so much more. I like the idea of it being the color of the soul, but more-so (and maybe more simple-minded) I thought it tied together the film perfectly as it could also stand for the blood that the sisters are bonded by, blood as in death, and of course love. Red is a strong color because it's tied to a lot of things and many of them work within this film.
It's a very powerful movie and probably the most psychologically challenging of the films I've seen by him, next to "Persona" that is. "Viskningar och rop" deals with a much more dark and personal issue - death of a family member. Some scenes in this film depict illness and dying way stronger than any film has managed to. The agony of Agnes is truly devastating, her cries are intense and go straight into your heart. Then there's the strange relationship between Agnes and Anna which is just so beautiful, even if it's hard to know exactly what their relationship has come to be. One scene towards the end of Anna holding the dead Agnes might be one of the most fantastic shots in Swedish film history. I say that with confidence - it's as excellent as any painting I've seen.
"Viskningar och rop" is a very emotional film as it deals with something as personal as the death of a sister. A lot of important issues are brought up in the film but in a very subtle matter. It never comes out as if it wanted you to think about your own life, it just depicts the reality of this family. If it makes you think about your situation then that's okay too, it's a movie that is easy to relate to and you're definitely gonna be emotionally affected by it, even though it's not through tears. This comes highly recommended to anyone!