Nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director—and an Oscar winner for Sven Nykvist’s rapturous color cinematography—Bergman’s shattering family drama unfolds in a large Swedish manor where three sisters have taken up residence: Agnes (Harriet Andersson), dying in agony of cancer; Karin (Ingrid Thulin), ripped apart by a vampirelike hunger for human connection; and Maria (Liv Ullmann), trapped in her own narcissism and sensuality. Death, to Agnes's sisters, is inconvenient, an affront to their egotism. In contrast, Agnes finds heaven—perhaps even resurrection—in sweet memories of summer innocence.

Cries and Whispers  is like no movie I've seen before, and like no movie Ingmar Bergman has made before; although we are all likely to see many films in our lives, there will be few like this one. It is hypnotic, disturbing, frightening. It envelops us in a red membrane of passion and fear, and in some way that I do not fully understand it employs taboos and ancient superstitions to make its effect. We slip lower in our seats, feeling claustrophobia and sexual disquiet, realizing that we have been surrounded by the vision of a film maker who has absolute mastery of his art.”

—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times