Sunday, January 30, 2005

Deep Cut DVD, Vol. II: Cries And Whispers (1972)

With the dawning era of unending queues on popular DVD Rental sites, unlimited virtual shelf-space and DVR technology, the forgotten and forlorn films of the past are receiving renewed attention. In response Your Movie Dude offers a new series, Deep Cut DVD, of brief reviews of some of those gems currently available for your visual consumption on shiny disc. These tidbits are meant for the uninitiated, the curious, and the seekers of new, higher and fertile cinematic grounds. So go ahead...add it to your queue.

Volume II: Cries And Whispers (1972)
Directed by: Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Harriet Andersson; Karri Sylwan; Ingrid Thulin; Liv Ullman
Criterion Collection - 91 Minutes

By Sweden's master auteur, Ingmar Bergman, Cries is a quiet, yet startling film about life and death, love and hatred. In a beautiful mansion at the turn of the twentieth century, Agnes (Andersson) lies dying, stricken with cancer. Her two equally well-off sisters, Karin (Thulin) and Maria (Ullman) come home to help Anna (Sylwan), the family's maid, see Agnes through her final days. Through their flashbacks and their actions, we learn that the two sisters' motivations for coming home are purely selfish; they return because they have to, not because they want to. Once we meet their dry, arrogant rich husbands, its clear that they are less alive then their dying sister and the maid who maternally has truly looked after her. Beautifully shot, Sven Nykvist (who won the Oscar for Cinematography that year) uses red, black and white, almost exclusively (like a White Stripes album cover), on the parchment of each of the film's frames, starkly illustrating the inner-souls and desires of its characters. His remarkable work inside the mansion often looks like actual portraits, dispelling the myth that beautiful photography in film must be external natural landscapes. What's equally compelling about the film is that Bergman foregoes filling his viewer in on the much of the background of the main characters or their situations, preferring to concentrate on the complexities of their conflicts with one another by restricting dialogue and forcing his actors to really emote, often in close-up. These cinematic traits can be a jolt for an American audience that is used to and even expects to get everything, but their withholding is no less a treat and its rewards are greater. If you have seen Bergman's more noted classics like The Seventh Seal or Wild Strawberries, then please, imbibe. If not, and you are looking for something different, challenging and somewhat shocking, then please, dig in.



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