Cries & Whispers (1972) - full transcript

In turn-of-the-century Sweden, cancer-stricken, dying Agnes is visited in her isolated rural mansion by her sisters Karin and Maria. As Agnes' condition deteriorates and pain management becomes increasingly more difficult, fear and revulsion grip the sisters, who seem incapable of empathy, and Agnes' only comfort and solace comes from her maid Anna. As the end draws closer, long repressed feelings of grudging resentment and mistrust cause jealousy, selfishness, and bitterness between the siblings to surface.


It is early Monday morning...

and I am in pain.

My sisters...

and Anna...

are taking turns staying up.

Good morning.
Did anything happen?

No, she was quiet... I think.

I fell asleep.

Anna, see to the fire.

I thank thee, dear Lord,
for allowing me

to awaken well and cheerful
this morning

after a good sleep
under thy protection,

and for the enjoyment
of a restful night.

I beseech thee again today
and every day

to let thine angels watch over
and protect my little girl

whom thou
in thy unfathomable wisdom

tookest unto thyself in heaven.

Mother is in my thoughts
nearly every day,

though she's been dead
for over 20 years.

I remember she would often seek

the peace and solitude
of the grounds.

I remember too
how I 'd follow her at a distance

and spy on her unnoticed,

because I loved her
to such a jealous extreme.

I loved her because she was
so gentle and beautiful and alive

and so very, very present.

But she could also be
coolly dismissive

or playfully cruel.

Yet I couldn't help
feeling sorry for her,

and now that I'm older,
I understand her much better.

I wish I could see her again
and tell her

that I understand
her boredom, her impatience,

her longing,

and her loneliness.

And when the wicked witch
at last realized

that little Gretel had tricked her,

her nose began
to grow and grow...

For Twelfth Night
Mother always gave a party,

and Aunt Olga would come

with her magic lantern
and her fairy tales.

I always felt
frightened and left out.

When Mother spoke to me
in her excitable way,

I could hardly understand
what she wanted of me.

Maria and Mother always had
so much to whisper about,

but then they were so alike.

I used to wonder jealously
what they had to laugh at.

Everyone was in high spirits.

I alone could not join
in the merriment.

I remember
another time one autumn...

when I hid behind the curtains

and watched her in secret.

She sat in her white dress
in the red drawing room.

She sat quite still,
her head bent,

her hands resting on the table.

Suddenly she noticed me

and softly called to me.

I approached hesitantly,

thinking she was going
to criticize me, as usual.

But instead she gave me
a look so full of sorrow

that I nearly burst into tears.

I placed my hand on her cheek...

and for that moment
we were very close.

There's someone out there.


There's someone out there.

Good morning, Agnes.

Good morning, Doctor.

She's very tired.
I don't think it will be long now.

I'll find my way out, thank you.


It's been so long.

When can we meet again?


Maria and her husband, Joakim,

had stayed at the manor
some years earlier,

when Agnes had gone to Italy
for her health.

One evening, Anna's little daughter
was taken quite ill

and Maria sent for the family doctor
from a nearby town.

Say “ah.”

Once more.

That hurt a bit, I know.

Good girl.
That wasn't too bad, eh?

Into bed with you now.

Get a little sleep.

- Thank you.
- You must be hungry, Doctor.

There's supper
in the other room, if you'd like.

That would be very nice.

Thank you.

Agnes and Karin are still in Italy.

I got a letter last week.

Agnes is much better.

Her cough is gone.

She's taken up painting again.

Karin's husband
joined them at Easter.

The weather's been good,
almost like summer...

though the nights are chilly.

And how's your husband?

Joakim had some business in town.

He'll be back tomorrow.

I mentioned you'd be coming
to look in on Anna's little girl.

He sends his best.
- Thank you.

I made up the guest room for you.

The weather's so awful.

You shouldn't be going home
in this weather.

You've changed.
- Really?

Is there someone else?

There's always someone else...

though I never thought
the matter would interest you.

It doesn't.

You wear spectacles now?

Am I bothering you?
- Not at all.

Why are you so reserved?

Couldn't we forget about the past?

Come here, Marie.


Look in the mirror.

You're beautiful.

Perhaps even more
than when we were together.

But you've changed,

and I want you to see how.

Now your eyes cast
quick, calculating side glances.

You used to look ahead
straightforwardly, openly...

without disguise.

Your mouth has a slightly hungry,
dissatisfied expression.

It used to be so soft.

Your complexion is pale now.

You wear makeup.

Your fine, wide brow

has four lines above each eye now.

You can't see them in this light,

but you can in the bright light of day.

You know what caused those lines?



And this fine contour

from your ear to your chin

is no longer so finely drawn...

the result of too much comfort
and laziness.

And there, by the bridge of your nose.

Why do you sneer so often?

You see that?

You sneer too often.

You see it?

And look under your eyes.

The sharp, scarcely noticeable wrinkles

from your boredom and impatience.

Can you really see all that there?

No, but I feel it when you kiss me.

I think you're joking with me.

I know where you see it.


In yourself.

Because you and I are so alike.

You mean...

in our selfishness...


and indifference?

Your arguments
have always bored me.

Are there no extenuating circumstances
for such as you and I?

I have no need of pardon.

Good morning, sir.

Good morning.

Thank you.

Good morning, Joakim.
Welcome home.

Good morning, Maria.

Anna's little girl is quite ill.

The doctor was here last night.

He sends his regards

and hopes you can
get together again for chess soon.

I asked him to stay overnight

because the weather was so bad.

He left early this morning
before anyone was up.

Did you enjoy yourself in town,
or were you terribly busy?

We received an invitation
from the Egermans.

They'd like us to stay
with them at Easter.

I think it would be very nice.

For a change of pace.
What do you think?

We'll see.

Run along and play.


Help me.

Please help me.



You hear that?

I hear only the wind

and the ticking of the clocks.

No... it's something else.

I don't hear anything else.

I'm freezing.

Good night.

Come here.

Come to me.

You're so far away.

Come here.

Here by my side.

Do I smell very bad?

It hurts so much.
- I know, Agnes.

I'll stay with you.

It will be all right.
- It hurts so bad.

You needn't be afraid when I'm here.

You know that.

The pillow's so warm.

We can get the other one.


Can you sit up a bit?

Now lie back.

Is that better?

Is that good?

You're so good to me.


What is it?

Agnes is worse.

I think she's unconscious.

Her breathing's very strange.

I'll get my shawl.


- What is it?
- Agnes is worse.

I'm coming.

- I'll go for the doctor.
- I'll go with you.

- When's the doctor coming?
- He wasn't home.

You'd better get dressed.
I'll stay with her.

I'm much better now.

Just a bit warm.

How about a little bath
and a clean gown?

Yes, thank you.

I'm a bit thirsty.

Shall I read a bit?

That would be wonderful.

“Chapter 34,

in which Mr. Pickwick thinks
he had better go to Bath,

and goes accordingly.

'But surely, my dear sir,'
said little Perker

as he stood in Mr. Pickwick's apartment
on the morning after the trial,

'surely you don't really mean -

really and seriously now,
and irritation apart -

that you won't pay
these costs and damages?'

'Not one halfpenny,'
said Mr. Pickwick firmly.

'Not one halfpenny.'

'Hoorah for the principle,
as the moneylender said

when he wouldn't renew the bill,'

observed Mr. Weller,
who was clearing away breakfast.

'Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick,
'have the goodness to step downstairs.'

'Certainly, sir,' replied Mr. Weller,

and acting on Mr. Pickwick's
gentle hint, Sam retired.”


I can't take it!

Can't anyone help me?

I can't take it!

Help me!

I can't...

God our Father...

in his infinite wisdom,

has called you home to him
still in the bloom of your youth.

In your life he found you worthy

of bearing a long and torturous agony.

You submitted patiently
and without complaint

in the certain knowledge
that your sins would be forgiven

through the death
of your Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.

May your Father in Heaven

have mercy on your soul

when you come before him.

May he let his angels remove from you

the memory of your earthly pain.

Should it be

that you gathered up our suffering
into your poor body...

and should it be that you bore it
with you through death...

and should you meet God

in that other land...

and should he turn
his countenance toward you...

and should you know
the language to speak

so that this God
may hear and understand you...

and should you be allowed
to speak with him...

should all of this be so...

then pray for us.

Agnes, my dear child,

listen to what I tell you now.

Pray for those of us left behind

on this dark and miserable earth

beneath a cruel and empty sky.

Lay your suffering at God's feet

and plead with him to pardon us.

Plead with him to free us

of our anxiety...

our weariness...

and our deepest doubts.

Plead with him
to give meaning to our lives.

Agnes, you who have long borne
this inscrutable suffering,

you are most surely worthy

of pleading our cause.

She was my confirmation child.

We had many long
and intimate discussions.

Her faith was stronger than mine.

Stop by the parish office tomorrow

and we can discuss
the formalities of the funeral.

Karin and her husband, Fredrik,

were pursuing a diplomatic career
some years earlier.

During a visit home, they stayed
for some months at the manor.

Anna, may I have a little more fish?

Will you join me?
- No, thank you.

What are you smiling about?

I'm not smiling.

Would you like coffee,
or will we be retiring?

No coffee, thank you.

It's late.

I suggest we retire now.

It's a web of lies, all of it.

Don't look at me.

Don't look at me like that, you hear?

I'm sorry.

Forgive me.

Help me undress.

You may go.

Nothing but a web of lies.

Every bit of it.

A web of lies...

What are you doing?

Going through some old letters
and documents about the estate.


I want us to be friends.

I want us to talk to each other.

After all, we're sisters.

We share so many memories.

It's so strange
how we never touch,

how we only make small talk.

Why won't you be my friend?

We've both been happy and unhappy.

We could laugh and cry together.

We could talk together
for days and nights on end.

We could hold each other tight.

I sometimes wander
through this childhood home of ours,

where everything
is both strange and familiar...

and I feel like I'm in a dream...

and like some event
of great importance lies in store for us.

Yes, I'm shallow and childish.

You've read
and thought and experienced

much more than I have.

Couldn't we use these days

to get to know each other

and really get closer?

I can't bear this distance

and silence.

Did I say something to hurt you?

It's easy to do,

but I swear I didn't mean
to hurt your feelings.

What are you reading?

- Agnes's diary.
- What does it say?

“Thursday, September 30.”

It says...

“I've received the most wonderful gift
anyone can receive in this life.

It's called many things:



affection, tenderness.

I think this is what's called 'grace.”'

No, don't touch me!
Don't come near me!

I can't stand to be touched.

I don't want you to do that.

I don't want you to.

I don't want you to be kind to me.


I can't stand it!

It's constant anguish.

It's like being in hell.

I can't breathe.

All the guilt!


Leave me alone.

Don't touch me.

Don't touch me.

I'm sorry I lost control
of myself this morning.

I don't know what came over me.

I suppose it's all the emotion
around Agnes's death.

We were so fond of her.
Now that the funeral is over,

I'll have our lawyer
look after the legal formalities.

The fruit please, Anna.

It's best we sell
the house and grounds.

You and I can divide up
all the rest -

furniture, china,

pictures, silverware, and books.

Would you step outside
a moment, Anna?

What shall we do about Anna?

I suggest we give her
a little extra something and let her go.

We'll give her
some little article of Agnes's too.

She was very devoted.

I understand
they were quite close.

Now she trails after us
in much too familiar a manner.

I think -

It's true.


often thought...

of taking my own life.

It's -

It's disgusting.

It's degrading...

and it never ever changes.

Henrik's an excellent lawyer,
I assure you.

My husband says I'm clumsy.

He's right.

I'm a fumbler.

My hands are too big, you see.

They just won't obey!

You sit there
with that embarrassed smile.

This isn't the sort of conversation
you'd imagined having.

Do you realize I hate you?

Do you realize how stupid
I find your flirtatiousness

and your insipid smiles?

How have I put up with you
for so long without a word?

I see right through you,

you and your caresses

and your false promises.

Can you conceive how anyone can live

with all the hate I've had to bear?

With no mercy or relief

or help of any kind.

I see it all.

Nothing escapes me, you hear?

Now you hear how it sounds
when the real Karin speaks.

You sit there grinning
your cold little grin.

What are you thinking?

Would you care to tell me?

May I hear madame's opinion?

No! Just as I thought.

You'd rather remain silent.

And you're right!

Forgive me.

Perhaps you mean well.

Perhaps you just want
to know me better.

My dear Maria...

forgive me.

I'm just blabbering.

No, that's not true either.

Maria, look at me.

Maria, look at me.

Can't you hear that?

Someone's crying.

Can't you hear it?

Someone's crying and crying.

Are you afraid of me now?

No, I'm not afraid.

I'm dead, you see.

The trouble is I can't get to sleep.

I can't leave all of you.

I'm so tired.

Can't anyone help me?

It's just a dream, Agnes.

No, it's not a dream.

Perhaps it's a dream for you,

but not for me.

I want Karin to come here.

Agnes wants Karin

to come in.

Won't you hold my hands
and warm me?

Stay with me until the horror is over.

It's so empty all around me.

No one would do what you ask.

I'm still alive.

I want nothing to do with your death.

Perhaps if I loved you...

but I don't.

What you ask is repulsive.
I'm leaving you now.

In a few hours I'll be gone.



I want Maria to come.

Agnes wants Maria

to come in.

Don't be afraid.

Please touch me.

Come talk to me.

Hold my hands and warm me.

You're my sister.
I won't leave you alone.

I feel so incredibly sorry for you.

Remember when we were little

and dusk would fall as we played?

We'd suddenly get scared,

and we'd huddle together

and hold each other tight.

It's just like that now, isn't it?

I can't hear what you're saying.

You have to come closer.


Hold my hands.

I'll stay with you.

I'll be here.

Don't cry.

I'm here.

You needn't be afraid any longer.
I'll take care of her.

I have my daughter to think about.

She must realize that.
My husband needs me.

It's repulsive, disgusting, senseless!

She's already begun to rot.

She has great foul spots on her hands.

I'll stay with her.

The funeral was tolerable.
No one wept or grew hysterical.

Thank you.
Have you finished packing?

There's one last trunk
to bring down, ma'am.

Hurry. We have little time.

The music was nice.

The bishop kept it brief,
thank God.

We're lucky he had a cold
so we could cancel the dinner.

- Shouldn't we do something for Anna?
- Do something?

I don't get your meaning.

She's looked after Agnes
for the last 12 years.

Shouldn't we offer her a small sum
or help her find a new place?

Out of the question.
She's young and strong.

She's had it very easy.

Her future
is not our responsibility.

I did promise
she could take a memento.

- Of her own choosing?
- I think she has that right.

I detest that sort of spontaneity,
but a promise is a promise.

We should speak to her right away.

Anna, you may stay on here
for a time if need be.

And you were promised

a memento of Agnes's.

Thank you.
I want nothing at all.

She's trying to act noble,
but she'll get nothing for it.

- Stay through the end of the month.
- Yes.

Well, if there's nothing left
to attend to.

Let's leave before the roads
to the station are snowed under.

Good-bye, Anna. Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you for your time here.

Hurry now.

- Could I speak to you a second?
- Of course.

That evening we got closer...

have you thought
about what we discussed?

Of course.

Could we hold to all our resolutions?

Dearest Karin, why shouldn't we?

I don't know.

It's all so different from that evening.

I think we've gotten much closer.

What are you thinking about?

Our conversation.

No, you're not.

I'm thinking how Joakim hates it
if I keep him waiting.

I don't understand
why you suddenly demand

that I account for all my thoughts.

What is it you want?


In that case, don't be hurt
if I must say good-bye now.

You touched me.
Don't you remember that?

I don't recall
every stupid thing I've done,

and I won't be made to account for them!

Dearest Karin, give the children
my love and keep well.

We'll see each other
for Twelfth Night, as usual.

How sad.

“Wednesday, the third of September.

A chill in the air
tells of autumn's approach,

but the days are still
lovely and mild...”

My sisters, Karin and Maria,
have come to see me.

It's wonderful to be together again

like in the old days.

I'm feeling much better.

We were even able
to take a stroll together.

It was a wonderful experience,

especially for me, since I haven't
been outdoors for so long.

We suddenly began to laugh
and run toward the old swing

that we hadn't used
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'm most fond of
in all the world were with me.

I could hear them chatting around me.

I could feel
the presence of their bodies,

the warmth of their hands.

I wanted to cling to that moment,
and I thought...

“Come what may, this is happiness.

I can't 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.”