Skip to main content

Cries and Whispers (1972)

By Pam Glazier · August 16, 2011

Screenplay Genre: Drama / Romance

Movie Time: 91 minutes


Maria (Liv Ullmann) and Karin (Ingrid Thulin) are staying at the family estate caring for their terminally ill sister Agnes (Harriet Andersson). After a long night of keeping watch over Agnes, Maria retires to her bedroom and gazes wistfully at an old doll house while Karin, in another room, looks at her aging hands with disgust, both somberly accepting the reality of aging and death. (00:9:52)

2. LOCK IN (End of Act One)

After her romantic advances are rebuffed by the family doctor (Erland Josephson), it is revealed in a flashback that Maria has a history with the doctor. He arrives at the estate one night while her husband is away, and he describes how she’s changed as they both look at her face in a mirror. She may be beautiful, but she is also calculating with discontent. She suggests that perhaps he sees too much of himself in her, and then they spend the night together. (00:25:10)                 


For several nights, Agnes suffers horrific pain. There is one final episode of torturous pain, and as Agnes screams for help, her sisters are unable to embrace her with love and care. Maria cannot even watch and Karin can’t bring herself to actually touch Agnes. It is only Anna (Kari Sylwan), the deeply devoted maid, who offers comfort in Agnes’ final moments. She dies. (00:43:30)

4. MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)

Through several spiteful conversations, we find that Karin and Maria have just as much difficulty showing love to each other. Karin uses distance to avoid love and Maria uses false affection. Just as they cannot love their husbands or their sister, they cannot find resolution between each other. After a particularly acrimonious conversation, Karin begs forgiveness of Maria, and they fall into a warm embrace. It seems all is forgotten, and they have found the love that had been previously so evasive. (1:13:03)


Agnes, though still dead, has become conscious. She wants love from her sisters, but despite their earlier moment, they cannot give it to her. Maria runs from the room in terror and Karin says that her requests for love are repulsive. Anna, however, hugs the crying corpse in an effort to comfort her. (1:17:00)