A kerosene stove explodes portentously in the beginning of the film, and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is shamelessly exploited.

Ingmar Bergman in Images

About the film

Ingmar Bergman and Birger Malmsten had travelled down to the French Riviera on holiday.

Reminiscing in Bergman on Bergman: 

Then I met some friends down there – painters and so forth – they were hardly ever quite sober – so there I sat, and began to feel all romantic about my marriage – my then marriage, that is to say one I'd just taken extreme delight in ripping to pieces in Three Strange Loves. I got a bit sentimental and began thinking about my time in Hälsingborg, what fun it had all been, the symphony orchestra, and how I wasn't such a genius as I'd imagined. The first real setbacks, you see, had begun to put in an appearence. But I thought to myself: 'even if one is only a mediocrity, still one must function'. So then I made up some sort of consolation for myself. That's the infantry who are important in culture, not the more dashing cavalry. It all turned out into quite a harmonious film. The only trouble was, I couldn't find an end to it. So I made up that operatic ending with the kitchen stove blowing up. 

Sources of inspiration 

The musical leitmotif in the film and the inspiration for its title is the final movement of Beethoven's Symphony number 9, the Choral Symphony, the famous setting of Schiller's Ode to Joy.

From Bergman on Bergman: 

The symphony orchestra in Helsingborg, though severaly lacking in sophistification, exuberantly played the canon of major symphonies. As often as time and circumstances allowed, I sat in on orchestra rehearsals. For their reason finale they planned to perform Beethoven's Ninth. I was allowed to borrow the score from the conductor, Sten Frykberg, and could actively follow, note by noto, the musicians and the members of the unpaid but passionate amateur choir. It was apowerful and touching event. I thought it was a magnificent idea for a film. It seemed so natural I tripped over the idea. I changed the theatrical people in my autobiographical film to musicians and gave it the title To Joy after Beethoven's symphony. [...] That the film's young violinist plays Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto with about the same lackluster skill as I exhibited in Crisis is just part of the whole story.

Shooting the film

The film was shot during the summer of 1949, beginning in the middle of July. The final takes were completed in early September. The exteriors were shot in the southern Swedish town of Helsingborg and the area around neighbouring Arild. A few years earlier Bergman had been the head of the Helsingborg City Theatre, and was therefore very familiar with the town.

The orchestral sequences were recorded at the Swedish Academy of Music with the assistance of sound technicians from the AGA sound film laboratory and Swedish radio. At the Spegel cinema in Stockholm where the film was premièred, they set up a special sound system with extra speakers, one on each side of the screen. This system was highly effective in the major orchestral passages.

Two pioneers from the Golden Age of Swedish silent film took part in To Joy: the actor John Ekman and the director and actor, Victor Sjöström. This was to be Ekman's final film, whereas in Wild Strawberries, Bergman handed Sjöström one more leading role as the elderly Professor Isak Borg.

Sources

  • The Ingmar Bergman Archives.
  • Ingmar Bergman, Images: My Life in Film.
  • Stig Björkman, Torsten Manns & Jonas Sima, Bergman on Bergman, (New York: Da Capo P., 1993).

Film facts

Distribution titles

An die Freude (West Germany)
Iloksi (Finland)
Til glede (Norway)
To mennesker (Denmark)
Vers la joie (France)

Production details

Production country: Sweden
Swedish distributor (35 mm):  Svensk Filmindustri, Svenska Filminstitutet
Laboratory: Svensk Filmindustris filmlaboratorium
Production company: Svensk Filmindustri

Aspect ratio: 1,37:1
Colour system: Black and white
Sound system: AGA-Baltic
Original length (minutes): 98

Censorship: 076.639
Date: 1950-02-17
Age limit: 15 years and over
Length:2700 metres

Release date: 1950-02-20, Spegeln, Stockholm, Sweden, 98 minutes

Filming locations

Sweden (1949-07-11-1949-09-02)

Råsunda Filmstad, Stockholm, (ateljé)
Helsingborg
Arild in Skåne

Music

Title: Symfoni, no 9, op. 125, d-moll. (Presto) with the final choir "An die Freude"
Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven (1824)
Lyrics: Friedrich von Schiller (1787)

Title: Egmont-uvertyren, op. 84
Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven (1810)
Comment: Instrumental.

Title: Djungel
Composer: Sam Samson
Comment: Instrumental

Title: Samba Valentino
Composer: Sam Samson
Comment: Instrumental

Title: Kvartett, flöjt, K. 298, A-major
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1778)
Comment: Instrumental.

Title: Prodaná nevesta. Uvertyr Alternative title: Brudköpet. Uvertyr
Composer: Bedrich Smetana (1866)
Comment: Instrumental.

Title: Konsert, violin, orchestra, op. 64, e-minor
Composer: Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1844)
Comment: Instrumental.

Title: Symphony, no 1, op. 21, C-major
Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven (1800)
Comment: Instrumental.

Title: Quartet, fluite, K. 298, A-major. Menuett
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1778)

Title: Concert, violin, orchestra, op. 64, e-moll. (Kadens)
Composer: Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1844)
Comment: Instrumental.

Title: Dig skall min själ sitt offer bära
Lyrics: August Afzelius (1814)
Britt G. Hallqvist (lyrics arrangement 1979)

Title: Postludium
Composer: Erik Johnsson

Reviews and comments

The film prompted a number of influential Stockholm critics to a vehement attack on what they regarded as Bergman's dramatic clichés. A. G. Bergman, writing in Aftontidningen, recommended the director to desist from "trying to be a writer" on the grounds that: "This his latest film reveals more harshly than any before his paucity of ideas in this area." In Morgontidningen Nils Beyer condemned what he regarded as psychological myopia:

Ingmar Bergman's unfortunate limitation is that he is unable to portray, or even to understand what constitutes, an ordinary human being, someone who combines deep-rooted egoism with a natural feeling for other people. Instead we have people jumping into bed with each other, exclaiming "you bloody slut", or "you should bloody well get something out of life", or "I'll bet you're scared now, eh?" And to continue in the style of the film, Ingmar Bergman has spewed himself out in the role of Stig, obviously believing that in doing so he has made a fine contribution to the psychology of modern man.

Perhaps the harshest note of all was struck by the critic for Bonniers Litterära Magasin, Harry Schein, who considered the film the weakest of Bergman's works:

In all of Ingmar Bergman's films there has been obscure religious philosophising, but in this film it occurs in a more relentless form even than in Eve. There is more than a hint of Edvard Persson's philosophy, listening for a baby's cry the moment somebody dies, and Beethoven would have been least impressed of all with these notions as a source of inspiration.

Whereas religion in American films gained "worldly alibis through priests who play baseball and boxing nuns," Bergman, according to Schein, gave his films "the necessary stamp of tendentious realism" courtesy of "violence towards women, talk of abortions, empty brandy bottles and the line 'Bloody hell, I like you' instead of 'I love you'. Not forgetting the peculiar phenomenon that Bergman, in the country with fewer prostitutes per capita than any other in the world, manages to put a whore in every film."

Yet not all the reviews were negative. Writing in Svenska Dagbladet, Lill was of the opinion that Sweden had hardly produced a writer who managed to write dramatic dialogue in such supreme fashion since August Strindberg, dialogue that combines focus and cogency with absolute spontaneity, where every line seems to stem naturally from the lips of the actors, rather than something written down by a tentative author." According to Lill, the film was very typical of its creator: "It neither shies away from what is idyllic and compact, nor from what is harrowing, intimate and loathsome, the latter, however, on a very small scale this time. And with every inch of footage, it leads its own subtle, ever-shifting life." The reviewer was especially pleased with the reproduction of the music, of which she wrote: "It is a pleasure to note that pains which have been taken with the technical side of the music have really produced such wonderful results in the loudspeakers, an orchestral tone so realistic, subtle and powerful."

Quotes

Söderby: Then we have a woman in the orchestra. It is a little silly and against the nature. But she's very talented.

Stig: I'll tell you the secret of real art. It's created when you’re unhappy. I prefer being unhappy. God knows I'm mostly in that state.

Stig: Perhaps one acts crazily and stupidly sometimes. The main thing, however, is that one wants to be a real person and artist.

Marta: There's so much misery, laxity and indifference, in body and mind. In the end you don't believe in anything. You think that's how it is. That's the whole meaning.
Stig: There doesn't have to be a meaning.
Marta: Yes, there must be. If there isn't you make one up. Otherwise you can't live.

Stig: You don't understand. I don't want a child, I hate children. You think this is a good world to come into? I prefer extinction.

Marta: It's easier when there are two of you, I'm sure of it.
Stig: You are never two. Inside you're always alone. What you're saying is just jabber and sentimentality.

Stig: I can't understand what's wrong. I probably ate something bad.
Marta: Some tribal people are so smart that when the wife is about to have a baby, the man goes to bed and screams and performs. He takes all the congratulations as well. That's fair, I guess.

Stig: Don't ask questions about things that don't concern you.
Marta: That you're together with Nelly Bro, it doesn't concern me?
Stig: Not really. You may be condemnatory, but keep it to yourself. I'm not interested.

Söderby: It's a question of joy, you see. Not a joy that expresses itself in laughter. Or a joy that says I am happy. What I mean is a joy that is so great, so particular, that it lies beyond pain and boundless despair. You understand, it's a joy beyond all understanding.

Plot summary

Mark Sandberg for Pacific Film Archive screening, 1996:

In To Joy Bergman dedicates his full attention to a theme that will recur in smaller filmic moments throughout his career: the idea of music's redemptive power. In a frenetic performance, actor Stig Olin plays an ambitious concert violinist of mercurial temperament who ends up sacrificing nearly everything for his career.

The fact that his orchestra conductor is in turn played by Victor Sjöström, the grand old master director of the Swedish silent cinema (and Bergman's main cinematic mentor as well), only adds to the resonances of this film as a personal parable of Bergman's own filmmaking. Beethoven's music, the source for the title, is equated by film's end with the momentary but intense joy of the Swedish summer, leading Bergman biographer Peter Cowie to cull from this film an artistic manifesto of sorts: 'There are brief instances in life that are of such exquisite beauty that they compensate for all the misery and unhappiness.'


 

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Collaborators

Maj-Britt Nilsson
Marta Olsson, violinist
Stig Olin
Stig Eriksson, violinist, her husband
Birger Malmsten
Marcel, cellist
John Ekman
Mikael Bro, older actor
Margit Carlqvist
Nelly Bro, his young wife
More collaborators (38)

Cries and Whispers is like few movies we'll ever see. It is hypnotic, disturbing, frightening.

Roger Ebert

About the film

In his workbook dated 16 April 1970 Bergman wrote:

Yet the days go on, and with them a growing sense of ease, I'm shamefully at ease and I haven't actually done a stroke of work for a whole month. But now I'm in good spirits… [unreadable] …to start working again actually coincided with the arrival of the spring weather. It's finally, finally spring, and finally, finally, finally it's light and one can live again. So it's all set. Let's start then. Ha ha, yes! It's starting. ANNA. That's a good name, I've used it lots of times before, admittedly, but it's so good….

It's reassuring to discover that such an amazingly productive person as Bergman (with an average of one film shoot, one screenplay and two stage productions per year) can find it hard to get started once in a while, just like the rest of us. But once he had settled on the name for one of his principal characters, Cries and Whispers started to take shape in his mind. A few months later he set to work filming The Touch.

When that film was completed in spring 1971, Bergman watched it together with Sven Nykvist:

'Well, Sven', he remarked 'this was not a good film. You and I both knew it wouldn't be. But I've got another idea, something I've dreamt. I see a road, and a girl on her way to a large house, a manor house, perhaps. She has a little dog with her. Inside the house there's a large red room where three sisters dressed in white are sitting and whispering together. Do you think it could turn into a film?'

Nykvist circumspectly replied that the images sounded promising. 'Right. It's now the 4th of April,' said Bergman. 'Promise me you'll be at home in two months' time, on the 4th of June. That's when you'll get the screenplay.' And the director kept his word….

As usual he made a start on the casting while writing the script: 'I'm going to have Liv, and then there should be Ingrid, and I would very much like to have Harriet, too, since she belongs to this breed of enigmatic women. And then I want Mia Farrow; let's see if that works out. It probably will; why shouldn't it?' Mia Farrow never actually joined the cast, but the notion is an intriguing one. She was later to become the actress of choice for Woody Allen, a director who, more than any other, has paid homage to Bergman in film after film. The fact that Bergman had Farrow in his sights ten years before she and Allen worked together for the first time is a somewhat eerie coincidence.

With Cries and Whispers, a project that had occupied his thoughts for so long, Bergman was eager to continue the experimentation he had embarked upon in The Silence and Persona. He was especially keen to work together with Nykvist on the colour and lighting, to 'really get stuck into the laboratory'. Another proviso was that the film should be in Swedish, despite what Bergman considered the 'wretched' state of Swedish cinema at the time. He quickly realised that funding for such a vague project would present difficulties, so he decided to go ahead and finance it himself through his own company Cinematograph. But the film turned out to be more expensive than he had first thought, and additional funds were needed. The agreed solution was that of the total budget of 1.5 million Swedish kronor, Cinematograph would put up 750,000, the Swedish Film Institute  would contribute 550,000 and the remainder would be borrowed. Cash flow was also eased by the fact that Harriet Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Liv Ullmann and Sven Nykvist invested their fees in the film: they would get a share of the profits if it was a success, but nothing at all if it was a commercial flop.

The structure of the financial package resulted in a major rumpus: the role of the Film Institute in particular caused eyebrows to be raised. Critical voices insisted that the Institute's resources would be put to better use if they were made available to less established filmmakers. When the Film Institute board arrived at its decision, it was on the tacit understanding that the film would be shot in the studios of the newly-built Filmhuset, so that its own staff would derive benefit from the project. Yet when the film crew came across a suitable manor house at Taxinge-Näsby, Bergman completely gave up on any plans to construct his interiors in the studios: 'the manor house is ideal, just as if I'd designed it myself.'

This move simply added fuel to the criticism. In response, Harry Schein, chairman of the Film Institute, penned an angry defence of his board's decision which was published on the arts pages of Expressen:

Bergman's films bring in very healthy returns from the entire world. This co-production with the director does not mean that the Film Institute is helping Bergman any more than the cinematographer and actors, who are investing their fees in this work, are helping him. It is more a case of Bergman lending a helping hand, not the Film Institute, on account of all the people who will be given a chance to work thanks to the revenues from this film. The funding that the Film Institute is providing for Bergman's film is not being taken away from anyone else. Neither is our investment in Bergman – and the many people in the film industry who get work through him – taking place at the cost of any other film. Quite the opposite: this investment means that the Film Institute will be better placed to fund more films than would otherwise have been the case.

Later on in the article, following this low-key introduction, Schein becomes more agitated, venting his spleen on a critical band of journalists and resentful fellow film directors:

It is typical of the state of Swedish cinema– which in this respect is probably unique in the world – that such a debate should arise at all. There is a petty miserliness, personal rancour, and sordid envy behind all this lobbying, behind all the posturing of newspaper editors. Young radicals in the film industry and a handful of their spokesmen have been harping on for almost a month now in the theatre columns of Dagens Nyheter and other papers trying to stir up a scandal – about what, exactly? The fact that Ingmar Bergman is making a film in Sweden together with the Swedish Film Institute? In any other country you might care to name, such a piece of news would have been warmly received by all radical film lovers.

Sources of inspiration 

Bergman writing in Images: My Life in Film

'The first image kept coming back, over and over: the room draped all in red with women clad in white. That's the way it is: Images obstinately resurface without my knowing what they want with me; then they diasppear only to come back, looking exactly the same.'

As with Persona, Bergman appended a foreword to the finished screenplay, aimed primarily at his fellow workers on the film. In terms of atmosphere it ties in well with the finished film, and it also includes brooding descriptions of how Cries and Whispers was first conceived.

Many observers have tended to view the central women in the film, Agnes, Karin, Maria and Anna, as four aspects of one and the same person. Bergman has concurred with this view. For him, this is a typical device. On one occasion he referred to the film as a 'self-portrait' of his mother (who was also called Karin). Initially, his choice of words seems inappropriate – can a self-portrait be anything other than a portrait of oneself? Yet it is quite possibly a conscious play on words: the concept of fusing together with another person is a recurring theme in his work.

Many years later Bergman denied that Cries and Whispers actually would be about his mother. 'That was a lie for the media. It was a spontaneous and careless remark. It was to haunt me. Since then it has always been linked to the film. Some stupid remarks one makes tend to live a life on their own. It was a lie. I said it in order to have something to say. It's very hard to say anything about Cries and Whispers', Bergman said in the documentary Bergman and the Cinema, first shown in Swedish Television in 2004.

The enigmatic title of the film was borrowed from the music critic Yngve Flyckt's description of Mozart's Piano Concerto No 14 in E flat major (K449): music which sounds, according to Flycht, just like 'cries and whispers'.

In the theatre, Bergman has staged countless productions of Ibsen, Molière, Shakespeare and Strindberg. Yet of all the world's great dramatists, Anton Chekhov has hardly featured at all in the Bergman canon. He only ever directed two plays by the Russian master: The Seagull at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in 1961, and Three Sisters at München Residenztheater in 1978. This may seem somewhat odd, since the two of them have much in common. And Cries and Whispers has been compared with Chekhov by a number of commentators, including François Truffaut: 'It begins like Chekhov's Three Sisters and ends like The Cherry Orchard and in between it's more like Strindberg.'

Maaret Koskinen has pointed out some fascinating similarities between Cries and Whispers and a prose fragment written some thirty years earlier in 1942. The film opens with a montage of clocks (the almost banal interpretation of which is that Agnes' time is up), which clearly bears comparison with the earlier writing:

So she goes up to the tall, dark grandfather clock, then to the drawing room with its two small, gilded table clocks under glass domes, decorated with shepherds and shepherdesses. She sets all the clocks in the house in motion, and now the silence is filled with the soft, living tick-tock of four clocks. The small shepherd clocks in the drawing room then strike with five tinny, ringing chimes – they are in a great hurry. Before these have finished, the sound is joined by the rounded, calm and dignified chimes of the bedroom clock. Finally, five muted chimes ring out from the sombre grandfather clock.

 

Shooting the film 

Bergman's film shoots always begin with meticulous preparation: several days of running through the script with everyone in the crew, from the actors down to the make-up assistants. It is a method he probably learnt from the theatre, and one which has worked well: he has rarely gone over budget or taken longer to shoot a film than the time prescribed. For this film, in which he himself was responsible for so much risk capital, the procedure was even more important to him than before, not least because he realised that many technical difficulties lay ahead.

By the time shooting got under way Bergman and Nykvist 'had tested everything that possibly could be tested; not only the makeup, the hair, the costumes, but every object, wall covering, the upholstery, every inch of carpeting.' At a press conference to mark the start of filming, Bergman stressed just how important Marik Vos' costumes and scenery were, since the film is 'based on atmospheres. And Sven Nykvist's photography will be crucial to the outcome. The film is rich in close-ups –the light around faces at dawn and dusk.' 'The problem', Nykvist interjected, 'is that colour film contains too much colour. If you want to show dawns and dusks, you can't simply work on the lighting, you also have to work with filters in the laboratory. It's a question of daring to question the 'rules' of colour film.' And for Cries and Whispers, Börje Lundh's make-up was even more important than usual, since the red of the sets might so easily reflect too harshly in the close-ups of faces.

The film's faithful servant, the fourth part of the composite picture, was played by the dancer Kari Sylwan, who had recently worked with Bergman in two of his theatre productions, A Dream Play and Show.

The men in the lives of these women were played by Erland Josephson and two less well-known actors in a Bergman context. Henning Moritzen is probably best known currently for his role in Tomas Vinterberg's The Celebration, but he had long been one of Denmark's most prolific actors. During the filming Bergman called him one of the best in Scandinavia, maintaining that 'he's so pleasant that you can hardly believe he is an actor…' Two years later Mortizen would play Alceste in Bergman's production of The Misanthrope at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen. Georg Årlin had played minor parts in Swedish films since 1940, but was primarily a stage actor. Bergman had directed him in a number of television plays and theatre productions dating back to 1943. Årlin, for example, played the title role in Don Juan at the Malmö City Theatre in 1955.

The film's press officer was Lars-Olof Löthwall, who has written about the film shoot in a couple of articles. In one anecdote he recalls how at the start of filming Bergman announced to the entire crew: 'On Thursday Nurse Gerd will be here to give us all an injection in our backsides. Gamma globulin. Do you know what gamma globulin is?' Nobody was allowed to be ill. Everyone had to stick to the time schedule, and to the all-important budget.

Löthwall also overheard many of Bergman's instructions to the actors, such as this one to Harriet Andersson: 'Take care in the waking up scene. Lie there for a long time with your eyes shut. We must know you're awake. We need to feel it.' Bergman also asked Liv Ullmann to 'remember that Maria is a woman who has never closed a door behind herself in her entire life….' Although Bergman is renowned for knowing what he wants, most of this is reserved for the scenery and camerawork. His actors have often been granted major freedom to develop their own roles, although he stops short of allowing them to improvise freely. Character interpretation is clearly a complex process, or, as Bergman himself puts it: 'Explaining what you yourself intended can be bloody difficult.'

Cries and Whispers certainly counts as one of Bergman's most unremittingly pessimistic works. But in making these bleaker films, the cast and crew usually appear to have had a great deal of fun on the set. Everyone recalls this particular shoot with affection, not least the four female leads, who maintained a good deal of gently self-mocking cheer throughout.

One day, as Löthwall recalls, a banal popular song with the refrain 'you're always in a good mood when the sun shines' came on the radio. Bergman, Harriet Andersson and the make-up artist Börje Lundh started to sing along. '…The next minute they were recreating a marriage from hell on celluloid.'

The genial atmosphere was no doubt aided by the fact that Bergman was in love and about to marry Ingrid von Rosen, who had a minor part in the film. (Two of his daughters also appear in the film: Lena Bergman and Linn Ullmann).

Yet even though the atmosphere was cheerful for the most part, it wasn't without its darker moments. At one point Bergman had agreed to do an interview with Löthwall, but at the appointed time the director complained: 'It's quite unthinkable that you could get me to talk now. I don't want to. I can't. I can't stand myself any longer. This is so difficult that I've lost the will to live.' A few moments later the cameras were rolling once more, and Bergman was completely wrapped up in the task at hand.

Moreover, during one particular take in the film, Bergman wearily summarised the process as follows: 'It's the same old film every time. The same actors. Same scenes. Same problems. The only thing that distinguishes one film from another is the fact that we're all getting older...'

Cries and Whispers was the first film in which Bergman used a zoom lens, a technique that was extremely popular at the time (although it remains unclear as to whether or not it was actually Bergman who decided to use it). Sven Nykvist has recounted how the zoom effects, which Bergman generally disliked, had to take place discreetly: 'With my left hand I managed some small, almost indiscernible zoom-ins. If I did it when the camera was moving, then Ingmar didn't notice – and since he was pleased, I didn't say anything.' When Bergman finally realised what was happening he let it go, since it did produce the results he sought. Nykvist also tells how Bergman wanted to sit as close to the camera as possible so as to maintain eye contact with the actors: 'It was a problem at times. He and the assistant cameraman, who was responsible for focusing, would fight over the best position. But Ingmar was so thin that he could sometimes manage to squeeze in between the legs of the camera and sit on the floor right under the lens. Then he was happy.'


Epilogue 

Cries and Whispers was screened outside the main competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 1973, and Bergman gave his first ever press conference outside Scandinavia. It was a polite affair in which he fielded questions such as which part of himself he devoted to the theatre, and which part to films. 'I'm a complete person', was his response.

On its release in Sweden, the film provoked a good deal of criticism of Bergman in general. The broadsheet Dagens Nyheter, for example, accused him of being sentimental at the expense of social and political conviction. Even though the film was set in the past, it ignored any historical context. A review in the communist newspaper Gnistan ("The Spark") reads:

This is a world event, so they say. Just like Volvo and Swedish vodka, Bergman is a saleable product in the global marketplace. [...] Ingmar Bergman is one of this country's truly reactionary artists. He would never, as many other artists did, take a stand on behalf of the people of Vietnam. He is very hostile towards the proletarian theatres that are beginning to spring up. In acting circles it is a well known fact that he thinks that workers' theatre is bad theatre. He would never sink to such a low level. Bergman makes art for company directors and their like, a sort of Playboy art. It always involves a little nudity, something a bit shocking and a few emotional entanglements. Made for export.

The film's US distributor was, oddly enough, Roger Corman, the legendary and prolific producer of B- and horror movies. But it was a fortunate move for both parties, since the film was such an amazing success. The money invested by Bergman, his colleagues and the Swedish Film Institute's reaped major dividends. A few years later Bergman was asked just how much money he had earned from Cries and Whispers, but he was unable to be precise. 'All I know is that it was like playing a one-armed bandit. You put a coin in the slot, the wheels started spinning, and suddenly three oranges lined up in front of you. Money just gushed out of the machine...'

Sources

  • The Ingmar Bergman Archives.
  • Ingmar Bergman, Images: My Life in Film.
  • Maaret Koskinen, I begynnelsen var ordet : Ingmar Bergman och hans tidiga författarskap, (Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand, 2002).
  • Sven Nykvist, Vördnad för ljuset: om film och människor, red. Bengt Forslund, (Stockholm: Bonnier, 1997).
  • "”Viskningar och rop – ett enormt äventyr"”, Upsala Nya Tidning, 7 September 1971.
  • Lars-Olof Löthwall, ”"Sådan är han Ingmar Bergman”", Allers, no 34, 1972.
  • "Hela världen får se halva 'äktenskapet'", Expressen, 27 August 1974.
  • "-Tack ska ni ha, sa Bergman - Ja jag var dödsförskräckt", Sydsvenska Dagbladet, 20 May 1973.
  • Gnistan, no 11, 1972.

Film facts

Distribution titles

Cries and Whispers (USA)
Cris et chuchotements (France)
Gritos e sussuros (Brasil)
Gritos y susurros (Spain)
Hvisken og råb (Denmark) 
Kuiskauksia ja huutoja (Finland) 
Lagrimas e suspiros (Portugal) 
Schreew zonder antwoord (The Netherlands) 
Schreie und Flüstern (West Germany) 
Seoty a vykriky (Czechoslovakia) 
Suttogások, sikolyok (Hungary) 
Szepty i krzyki (Poland) 
Viskningar och rop (Norway)

Production details 

Production country: Sweden
Swedish distributor (35 mm): Svensk Filmindustri, Svenska Filminstitutet
Swedish distributor: (video for sal and rental) (physical): Svenska Filminstitutet
Laboratory: FilmTeknik AB
Production company: Cinematograph AB, Svenska Filminstitutet, Liv Ullmann, Ingrid Thulin, Harriet Andersson, Sven Nykvist

Aspect ratio: 1,66:1
Colour system:  Eastman Color
Sound system: Optical mono
Original length (minutes): 91

Censorship: 111.192
Date: 1972-08-05
Age limit: 15 years and over
Length: 2500 meter

Release date: 1972-12-21, Cinema, New York, USA, 91 minutes
Swedish premiere: 1973-03-05, Spegeln, Göteborg, Sweden, 91 minutes
Camera, Malmö, Sweden
Spegeln, Stockholm, Sweden

Music 

Title: Cello Suite no 5 c-minor
Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

Title: Mazurka no 13 a-minor opus 17 no 4
Composer: Frédéric Chopin

Quotations

Maria: You've changed. Is there someone else?
David: There always is. Besides, I thought the problem didn't interest you.
Maria: It doesn't.

David: Come over here Maria. Look at yourself in the mirror. You are beautiful. Perhaps more so than in our time. But you've changed. I want you to see that you've changed. These days you cast rapid, calculating, sidelong glances. You're gaze used to be direct, open, and without any disguise. Your mouth is an expression of discontent and hunger. It used only to be soft. Your complexion has become pallid, you use make-up. Your fine, broad forehead now has four creases above each eyebrow. You can't tell in this light, though you can in daylight. Do you know how they get there? Indifference, Maria. And this fine contour from the ear to the chin, it's no longer quite so evident. That's where complacency and indolence reside. Look here, at the bridge of the nose, why do you sneer so often, Maria? Do you see, you sneer to often. Do you see, Maria? Beneath your eyes, those sharp, barely visible wrinkles of boredom and impatience.
Maria: Do you see all that in my face?
David: No, but I feel it when you kiss me.
Maria: You're making fun of me. But I know where you see it.
David: And where would that be?
Maria: In yourself. Because we're so alike, you and me.
David: You mean the selfishness, the coldness, the indifference?

Isak, the priest: If it be that you gathered our suffering in your poor body and have borne it with you through death. If it be that you meet God there in that other land. If it be that He turns His face towards you. If it that you will know the language of Our Lord. If it be that you can speak to the Lord, if it be so: then pray for us. Agnes, dear child, listen to what I tell you now. Pray for us who are left on this dark and dirty earth beneath and empty and cruel sky. Lay your burden of suffering at the Lord?s feet and ask Him to pardon us. Ask Him to set us free at last, from our anxiety, our weariness and our profound doubt. Ask Him for a meaning to our lives. Agnes, you have suffered so inconceivably and so long, you must surely be worthy to plead our case.

Karin: Don't touch me! Don't come any nearer! I abhor any form of contact.

Agnes: Can you hold my hands and warm me? Stay with me until the horror is past. It's empty all around me.
Karin: Not a soul would do what you ask. I'm alive, and I want nothing to do with your death. Perhaps if I loved you, but I don't love you.

Karin: Let's keep to our resolutions.
Maria: Why shouldn't we, dearest?
Karin: I don't know. Everything is so different now.
Maria: We've come closer to each other.
Karin: What are you thinking?
Maria: About our conversation.
Karin: No, you're not.
Maria: I'm thinking that Joakim is waiting, and he hates that. Why do you suddenly call me to account for my thoughts? What is it you want?
Karin: Nothing.
Maria: Then you won't be hurt if I say goodbye now.
Karin: You've touched me, have you forgotten?
Maria: I can't remember every little remark, or be held responsible for them. Look after yourself and give my love to the children.

Anna, reading Agnes' journal: Wednesday the third of September. The tang of autumn fills the clear still air but it's mild and fine. My sisters, Karin and Maria have come to see me. It's wonderful to be together again like in the old days, and I am feeling much better. We were even able to go for a little walk together. Such an event for me, especially since i haven't been out of doors for so long. Suddenly we began to laugh and run toward the old swing that we hadn't seen since we were children. We sat in it like three good little sisters and Anna pushed us, slowly and gently. All my aches and pains were gone. The people I am most fond of in the entire world were with me. I could hear their chatting around me. I could feel the presence of their bodies, the warmth of their hands. I wanted to hold the moment fast and thought, Come what may, this is happiness. I cannot wish for anything better. Now, for a few minutes, I can experience perfection. And I feel profoundly grateful to my life, which gives me so much.

Plot Summary

Ryan DeRosa, Pacific Film Archive, 1996: 

Cries and Whispers depicts the final day of Agnes (Harriet Andersson), who lies in bed with cancer. Her most dear ones—, her sisters, Maria (Liv Ullmann) and Karin (Ingrid Thulin), and a companion, Anna (Kari Sylwan) —watch over her. In a film as formal as a clock's tick, Bergman restricts his palette to colors of blood, his close-ups to the image of the soul. The four women want strength to face life, to overcome fear, to remove the curtain from behind which they look and admire, but do not go forth to touch. They are the same person in different stages of realizing that to love is to empty oneself of desire; to forgive oneself; to hear fully the cry of the present through the searing whispers from the past; to imagine a love that gives without knowing how to heal or provide rest, yet is vast and vigilant, because that is life's meaning: to be saved by giving one's body and soul.

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Collaborators

Ingmar Bergman
Director
Gregor Ges
Author

Collaborators

Ingmar Bergman
Director
Kjeld Abell
Author

'Satire is underrepresented in Swedish culture. Ingmar Bergman's production was timely and just.'

Leif Zern

About the production

This production was first performed to a small audience at The Royal Dramatic Theatre, then televised. The text is mainly authentic quotations from various official governmental investigations on culture. Dedicated to Åke Gustavsson, chairman of the cultural committee in the Swedish parliament.

Sources

  • Birgitta Steene, Ingmar Bergman: A Reference Guide, (Amsterdam University Press, 2005).

Images/movies

Collaborators

Benny Haag
The white clown
Ingmar Bergman
Director
Björn Granath
Author
Johan Rabaeus
Author
Göran Wassberg
Designer
More collaborators (1)

About the production

Bergman had the specific task of collecting Sven Sköld at his hotel and taking him to the outdoor stage. This was during wartime. The actors and backdrop were transported via train.

Sources

  • The Ingmar Bergman Archives.
  • Myggans nöjeslexikon: ett uppslagsverk om underhållning, red. Uno Myggan Ericson, (Höganäs: Bra böcker, 1989-1993).

Images/movies

Collaborators

Hilde Marfalt
Stina
Sigvard Berg
Per
Birgit Schöldberg-Stenberg
Maja
Bernhard Sönnerstedt
Erk
Else Fisher
Choreography
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'A chilling, comical interpretation of human vanity in its most bitter form...'

Dietmar N Schmidt, Frankfurter Rundschau

Reviews and comments

Through his previous Munich productions, Bergman had established himself as a psychological stage realist. It was a professional persona considered a bit conventional; in the words of Gerhard Pörtl, 'the man from Sweden has not seemed eccentric enough'. Bergman's staging of Yvonne...was however more of 'a bravura staging'; in fact, several critics termed the Gombrowiez production Bergman's best work in Munich, with excellent instruction of the actors.

 

Sources

  • The Ingmar Bergman Archives.
  • Birgitta Steene, Ingmar Bergman: A Reference Guide, (Amsterdam University Press, 2005).

Collaborators

Andrea-Maria Wildner
Yvonne
Klaus Guth
King Ignacy
Gaby Dohm
Queen Margareta
Robert Atzorn
Prince Filip
Hans Zander
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'Yvonne is not a large Bergman staging - it has found its soul on the small stage, functioning more through details and subtle devices than through grand gestures, scenery and tableaux.'

Lars Ring, Svenska Dagbladet

About the production

Several reviewers felt that Bergman saw more human depth in the story of Yvonne and the prince than Gombrowicz' text suggested. Much critical attention focussed on the theatricality of the performance and on Bergman's rapport with the actors.

It is obvious that Ingmar Bergman does something remarkable with the actors, releases their love to work and their confidence. It is an art that has to do with charisma, inspiration, and experience, and it can probably not be written down in a book of rules for future directors. But there is no better theatre being practiced in Sweden, perhaps not the world.

At the beginning of The Royal Dramatic Theatre's 1995-96 season, Bergman announced his decision to retire. Several critics expressed their doubts. One reviewer who had belonged to the 'anti-Bergman' group of the '60s concluded, 'This superb creativity and artistic power that he shows in Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy cannot simply be shut off. It would appear like a pure act of revenge against those of us who have not always been appreciative and impressed enough. We shall miss him forever'.

Sources

  • The Ingmar Bergman Archives.
  • Birgitta Steene, Ingmar Bergman: A Reference Guide, (Amsterdam University Press, 2005).

Guest performances

When the guest performance in New York of The Misantrophe was cancelled, The Royal Dramatic Theatre offered to replace it with Yvonne. The offer was declined because of the theme - a celebration of French theatre.

Poland, Krakow, European Theatre Union festival, 22-25 September 1996
The play guest performed in Krakow, the town where the play had its opening in 1957. An earlier attempt to make a farce of Gombrowitcz' play was met with severe criticism in Poland. In spite of this Bergman's absurdist approach was met with great enthusiasm. Some critics mentioned the conservative and traditional nature of Bergman's production but also its clarity, stringency and discipline. Others saw the performance as a homage to Gombrowitcz and a unique interpretation of his attempt to examine the mechanisms and structure of power.

Denmark, Copenhagen, Det Konglige, 14-15 February 1997
When Bergman was working at Det Konglige in Copenhagen in the early '70s, he had plans on staging Yvonne but finally choose The Misanthrophe instead. The performances were not sold out although praised by the critics. One review was for example headlined, 'Miraculous, Miraculous, Miraculous'.

Sources

  • Birgitta Steene, Ingmar Bergman: A Reference Guide, (Amsterdam University Press, 2005).

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Collaborators

Nadja Weiss
Yvonne
Erland Josephson
The king
Kristina Adolphson
The queen
Pontus Gustafsson
The prince
Ingvar Kjellson
The cardinal
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'When I was younger I thought that the people of Värmland were awful and despicable. I was the most intelligent, brilliant one out there. Now I feel the exact opposite.'

Ingmar Bergman

About the production

Bergman wanted to stage The People of Värmland as a sign of gratitude for a memorable childhood experience of the play. But he had actually tackled the play before; in fact every Christmas since 1951, a taped radio version directed by Bergman had been broadcast on Swedish Public Radio. 

In an interview Bergman claims having stopped working as a luxury prostitute. From now on he was to attract the masses that seldom went to the theatre, and do so with quality productions:

If you produce a popular play, you must do so with quality. It is very easy to stage popular plays in a careless and ugly fashion. But there should be beautiful music and fun people, colourful costumes and stage design, a moving plot, the right length of the performance (...). The person who sees The People of Värmland for the first time will certainly find the theatre enjoyable. Then he will perhaps return and see Faust.

The production as a whole was a huge critical and popular success, and it was suggested that the Malmö City Theatre make it a tradition to present The People of Värmland once a year at Christmas time. A good many reviews explained the success as a mixture of national nostalgia, like leafing through an old picture book as good solid entertainment.

Bergman's approach to his material was ironic but not overbearing, 'the kind of amusing lack of respect one can permit oneself towards something one loves with all one's heart (…...) It is on that love that his production builds, and it is that love he communicates to the audience, just as he apparently communicated it to his cast'.

It is rather rare in Sweden to find such rave and happy theatre reviews as those that appeared fairy regularly during Bergman's Malmö years. The period has come to live on as one of the absolute peaks in Bergman's career as a stage director. Upon his departure from the Malmö stage, several reviewers commented on his development as a theatre director, listing as important features his careful reading of the dramatic text; his attention to detail the mise-en-scene and casting; his ability to inspire and hold together a huge ensemble.

Sources

  • The Ingmar Bergman Archives.
  • Birgitta Steene, Ingmar Bergman: A Reference Guide, (Amsterdam University Press, 2005).

Collaborators

Toivo Pawlo
Foundry proprietor
Olav Gerthel
Vilhelm
Anna-Stina Walton
Lotta
Albin Lindahl
Åke Fridell
Sven Ersson
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'We meet the young couple as they build their home, the building blocks are many: carpets, porcelain, clothing.'

The play's structure is repeated in many of Bergman's subsequent films.

About the production

Sandgren's play deals with a woman choosing between two men with opposing life perspectives - one who feeds his imagination, the other with a more down-to-earth, realistic approach. 

'We meet the young couple as they build their home, the building blocks are many: carpets, porcelain, clothing. He finds himself trapped within a cycle. In order to build a house one needs money, which one gets through compromise, which undermines one's faith in life, and without faith, love dies...'

Director Bergman was praised for avoiding his usual impetuousness. No recording has been saved.

Sources

  • The Ingmar Bergman Archives.

Collaborators

Sven Lindberg
Gösta
Bibi Skoglund
Anna
Karl-Arne Holmsten
Erland
Gustav Sandgren
Author
Ingmar Bergman
Director