This is TFE's late entry into the Hit Me With Your Best Shot gallery of Cries and Whisper's finest moments
Ingmar Bergman will never die. We need not be literal about this. Yes, the great Swedish auteur passed on in 2007 but his rich inimitable* filmography is not of the corporeal so much as its of the spirit (however despairing) or at least the deep recesses of the psyche, if you'd care to differentiate. In collaboration with fellow geniuses cinematographer Sven Nykvist and actress Liv Ullman he captured many of the greatest close-ups in the whole of cinematic history. In a Bergman/Nykvist/Ullman close-up it's not the eyes that are the window to the soul so much as the face as the soul, fully visible even when its bathed in shadow.
Yet even revealed it's still unknowable.
When I first saw Cries and Whispers in college while pursuing my own self-guided lessons in film history, I was astonished by the film's signature move. Each of the three "living" characters, if you can call them that, the sisters Maria (Liv Ullman) and Karin (Ingrid Thulin) and the family's housekeeper Anna (Kari Sylwan) are given bookend close-ups. These closeups house memories or dreams or scenes from their point of view. The closeups fade to red and are accompanied by indecipherable whispering. The impression isn't as simple as a haunting; Agnes (Harriest Anderson), who isn't afforded this expressive close-up luxury is still alive when this first starts happening. This unfathomably perfect artistic motif has already removed the film from the literal by the time Agnes dies at which point the film becomes even more incredible, disturbing and profound. What is haunting these women? Any answer feels correct whether you've imagined regrets, the abyss of death, life itself, or the living nightmare of toxic relationships.
*Woody Allen has tried but no one will ever duplicate him.
For completists of if you're curious I've included the two runner up shots I considered as "Best" after the jump
This image highlights the film's bold production design and I love that the bed, which usually appears bright red, appears inky black in this lighting and there's all that negative space to the right where a loved one should be. But neither of Agnes's sisters are very good at being "loved ones"
This image is from my favorite scene in the movie, in which Anna in something like a dream state approaches both sisters, seemingly in trances, who are moving their mouths as if to speak but no words are emerging. I love anything that reminds me of Liv Ullman's willfully mute astonishing performance in Persona.