Monday, April 25, 2005

Beautiful Maladies

Again, Bergman plumbs the depths of his characters' misery, and nearly goes too far this time. I don't mean that lightly. The list of taboos featured in this film is unparalelled (like in The Piano Teacher we get a particularly nasty scene of genital self-mutilation, but unlike in The Piano Teacher where mom and daughter are a bit too comfy we have lesbian incestual overtones galore between sisters, and to top things off Bergman offers us lesbian incestual necrophilia). The story centers around a dying sister in a marvelous old estate--her two sisters and a maid tend to her painful final days, and though Cries and Whispers is only 90 minutes long, I felt I'd been through those final days because her dying is a wrenching experience and done with unbearable intimacy. As one sister dies, the other two tear at each other with their own abominable secrets. For the first 45 minutes there's very little dialogue, but because we see brief scenes of each characters' life we really get to know their "major malfunctions" before they begin destryong one another. Liv Ullman--wow. She's on track to supplant Gong Li as my favorite actress.

Potent, dastardly cinema.