cries and whispers 2

I’ll be perfectly honest. I always feel like a Bergman movie is going to be homework when I start watching it and I always end up getting pulled in quickly. Cries and Whispers is a great movie, but it may also be the least joyful movie ever made. It’s not an easy sit.

[Laughs.] I just love Bergman so much. I just love him. I’m not saying I have this in my film, but Bergman’s ability to have so much technical precision in a way that you’re not aware of… You know, when you watch a Kubrick film, you’re like “Nice, that shot is rad.” But with Bergman, you’re just watching the story unfold and you go back later you see that, oh my gosh, that was one very long, intensely choreographed shot. You’re going from this person’s subjective experience to this person’s subjective experience, all in one shot. Wow. There is so much compassion for his characters in every single frame. That I really like.

The other thing about Cries and Whispers that is most directly influential [to The Witch] is the dream that isn’t just a symbolic representation of plot stuff that we already know, but is actually moving the plot forward. It’s utilized very well in Cries and Whispers and I pinched it heavily into The Witch. Bergman does this in Cries and Whispers and he does this in Hour of the Wolf and other films and other filmmakers do it too, but it’s also what you don’t see. I think there are reveals in my movie that are more alien, quick little flashes of things, but there’s some stuff you literally don’t see in Cries and Whispers and that you literally don’t see in The Witch and that is sometimes better than eight frames of the monster.

All of Bergman’s films deal with faith in a big way. Most of the time, like in Winter’s Light or Through a Glass Darkly, they’re about characters who have faith but struggle with it. Cries and Whispers feels like it’s about people who wish they had faith and are incapable of having it. I feel like characters who embody both of those world views inhabit The Witch

I have different religious views and/or problems than Bergman’s views and/or problems, but I’m always struck by his films. Winter’s Light is another film that I always watch and consider as a really great crisis. Sorry if that’s a little vague…

[The publicist steps in to say this will be the final question.]

I was hoping we could touch on the women of Cries and Whispers and the women of The Witch, namely Thomasin and Katherine. Both films place their female characters in tragic situations in times and places when their needs aren’t considered. 

It was… yeah, man. Super important! [Laughs.] I could talk about Cries and Whispers and Victorian and Edwardian suppression all day and all night, but for The Witch, I’ll just go to a stock statement that I say a lot. But it’s very true. Thomasin is the most marginalized person in the microcosm of society that is this family. And even in the culture she would be the most marginalized person. Her strength and power that comes through is not just sexuality. It’s not that simple. It’s rubbing against the dogma. In the early modern period, the witch represented men’s fears and ambivalences about female power and women’s fears and ambivalences and their own power and motherhood in this male-dominated society. It’s interesting to see, in a society that is trying to snuff out female power, how these kinds of weird explosions can happen.

Well, I look forward to seeing the movie again and I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with Nosferatu, if that’s still on.

It’s not next, even though that’s all everyone wants to talk about! But thank you.


The Witch is in theaters February 19.

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