Cries and Whispers is Ingmar Bergman's most painful and emotionally excruciating film, involving three sisters who have nothing but contempt, bitterness, and disgust with one another and for themselves. The bleak story takes place in a lavish mansion in the late 1800's, as it depicts the final days of one of the three sisters who is bed-ridden with cancer. Her two sisters return to the family home to be beside her during her last few days, but they remain distant and aloof with each-other, struggling to want to reach out and comfort their dying sister, all while coming in terms with the shock and fear of mortality her death is bringing to them. Bergman's earlier films touched on the themes of death and suffering, but nothing quite to the painful extremes of Cries and Whispers.
Bergman once stated in his book Images, “All my films can be thought of in terms of black and white, except for Cries and Whispers." The sophistication and artistry in the use of the color crimson red is quite extraordinary, as its color represents each character's fundamental emotional associations with blood, death and spirituality, including the interior of the human soul. Bergman even fades in and out of flash backs and dream sequences using the color red (along with the quite eerie sounds of distant whispering), which I find gives this film quite a dramatic and chilling power. Over the years Bergman was very reluctant on shooting a film in color, and highly embraced black and white, knowing it was a much more effective way of emphasizing the detail and contrast he wanted to express within his stories. But with Cries and Whispers however, Bergman wanted the film to be regarded in chromatic terms, soaking scarlet and crimson hues on the wallpaper, rugs and curtains, which would remind audiences not only of the human soul but also quite literally to human blood.