The feminine soul is captured in its finest nuances, from viciousness, egoism, and extreme vanity to brokenness and real tears – as if [seen] through a terribly realist mirror, which reflects all visible and invisible wrinkles. (…)
The director (Bergman, played by Zsolt Bogdán) consistently gestures in slow motion with his hands, radiating a kind of energy measured by the ticking of the clocks, and accentuated by harsh spotlights or, conversely, by fading lights. Cries and whispers, the search for God, is in contrast with the silence behind the absolute control of this “making of” of theatre and film in theatre, which is a terribly cruel x-ray of life. The director is, in fact, measuring his own loneliness.
The rooms are painted red and the women are dressed in white, black and violet. They are sick women, sick in their souls and in their bodies (even when the body is perfect, its perfection is sickly). One could say that it is Chekhov’s Three Sisters filtered through Strindberg and Wedekind. Women with hell inside of them. A single one suffers for them all, accepting everything; she struggles to the end and dies. The rest are tormented only to torment their companions, or they allow themselves to be tormented by the others simply out of habit. It is the red of the bullfight moved to the North, to the place of the bashful and frigid ones, who double themselves in order to keep up appearances and, at the same time, to minimally reveal themselves. It is worth re-watching Ingmar Bergman’s movie, but it is also worth seeing this performance in Cluj staged by Andrei Şerban – Cries and Whispers. Pieta and blind fury, eroticism and self-mutilation, timidity and harshness, superficial beauty and foul sickness. We all live in extremes, don’t we? Alive and dead in the same place, in the jungle.
As if on a dissecting table, the masterpiece Cries and Whispers is “unclothed”, “cut open” and analyzed from the perspective of the artist himself, the diagnosis being that mystery is an immortal virus. (…)
The scenography of the spectacle, signed by Carmencita Brojboiu, carefully reconstructs the red interior of the dying Agnes’ room, where most of the action takes place. As for the actors, they were impeccable, as always. Zsolt Bogdán was enchanting as Bergman, the director and magician, a kind of Prospero of the shooting; as the men in the background (the scene with the Priest who goes through a strange crisis of “faithless mysticism”, if we may describe it that way); and “as himself”. Anikó Pethő’s interpretation of Agnes, who is oscillating between life and death, simply takes ones breath away. Emőke Kató’s Karin is cold and sharp as a blade, with a frigid soul. Imola Kézdi, as Maria, is alluring and playful, but emotionless, like a bored little devil. Csilla Varga plays the maid Anna, who is devoted like a household pet, willing to follow her mistress beyond death. It is an extremely precise casting that perfectly fits the casting of Bergman’s masterpiece.
Gabriela Lupu: Despre strigăte în şoaptă [About Cries in Whispers], ArtAct Magazine, January 27, 2010
Şerban’s Cries and Whispers is a meta-referential undertaking of the film. The performance presents on a stage actors and a directorial group who are rehearsing and producing a movie; the [performance’s] creation process is on a par with the actual creation; the actors play actors who are playing movie characters. The dramaturgy of the spectacle points to multiple lines of narrative and themes, searching for a coherent structure that allows this “making of” to turn art into life. It is a brilliant idea. The proposal is exciting, and its realization – at perhaps the best theatre in Romania, directed by a legendary director – has everything necessary, from the beginning, for a true art event. (…)
The seemingly superficial beauty that is suffering, but which is unable to find the cause of its suffering in order to annihilate it, and the resigned, silent, absolute devotion of the Madonna constitute the limits within which the integrity of Cries and Whispers oscillates; from the reconciliation with death, but not with its terror (Agnes – Anikó Pethő) to the masochistic hysteria accompanied by psychological effects and the crisis of marriage (Emőke Kató). And all of this under the supervision of a master-creator, who is directing destruction. (…)
It is a difficult and entreating spectacle, for which the audience, for its part, has to supply a complex dramatic and emotional range.
The dramaturgical proposition of Andrei Şerban and Daniela Dima tries to extract the essence of the narrative and cinematographic process of Bergman in action, selecting the nodal points of the Swedish director’s solutions and recomposing them as a dress rehearsal, led and commented upon by the narrator-director.
Şerban’s spectacle is a definitive must-see. Because we are dealing with actresses who manage to take your breath away, repeatedly and simultaneously, every 5 minutes. (…) All four of them introduce and develop the deep complexity of the film characters, alternating silence, fear, terror and outburst in an imperceptible way, in rapid succession, as in a vortex of states of mind. Imola Kézdi presents a childish, spoiled, egocentric and charming Maria, who is disgustingly erotic and sometimes cruel. Emőke Kató interprets a Karin between the silence of mechanical control and unleashed hysteria, whose existential malady is caused by her marital state and by a psycho-physiological imbalance in full progress. Anikó Pethő builds on the light brushstrokes of a watercolour, which gradually becomes stronger, as if the colour were being taken directly from the tube and becoming expressionistic: she offers us an adolescent, yet elderly Agnes, an idealist who is dying and who is aware of her condition. Her terrors gradually power the engine which results in a fall into sacrificial nightmare. Csilla Varga slips into her character like a shadow, and in the same way into the “story”. Her Anna is almost mute, always present, always expressing, through mimicry or in her bodily movements, her relationship with the others, always available to give comfort to her mistress-friend, Agnes, yet a mysterious figure, somehow distressed by the fantastic “location” of the movie in the performance.
In a nutshell, it is a masterpiece, where the more you have the feeling that the compositions and decompositions happen almost effortlessly, de poignet, as the French say, like some simple exercises in improvisation with the complicity of the always charmed audience, the more charming and abundant it becomes in theatricality.
Cries and Whispers staged by Andrei Şerban at the Hungarian Theatre of Cluj (the premiere was on January 24th), after the homonymous movie by Ingmar Bergman, is a performance of profound and sad poetry, but not at all sentimental, of disturbing sensibility, but not at all melodramatic, of raw cynicism, but not at all weary, of subtle playfulness, but not at all harsh. It is a scenic remake but also a “making of” created over many years. Şerban’s proposition is not a simple staging of the Bergman movie, but a subtle reconfiguration of the semantic and meta-textual articulations, a re-valorization of the Swedish director’s poetry. It is, as stated in the playful imaginary interview between Andrei Şerban and Woody Allen, the latter a Bergman fan also, a preoccupation with the soul, with the “internal man.” (…)
I venture to say that Cries and Whispers is not a homage-spectacle. It is much more than that. It is a confession of faith, which Andrei Şerban holds as a baton, perhaps between Bergman’s bygone years and his future students. It is a breathtaking performance about we who are alone and who wish we were together. So that we don’t have to practice already in life that “supreme solitude” which comes with death, as Agnes puts it in her diary.
Claudiu Groza: Şoaptele fericirii, strigătul singurătăţii [The Whispers of Happiness, the Cry of Loneliness], Tribuna, February 1-15, 2010
The group of actors from the Hungarian Theatre of Cluj is authentic in every scene, especially Emőke Kató’s perfect interpretation of the older sister, Karin, and the character of the director [Zsolt Bogdán], who plays his own characters and thus, needs a chameleon-like skill to change nuancedly from one into another.
Radu Toderici: Monologurile lui Bergman [Bergman’s Monologues], ArtAct Magazine, February 3, 2010
With what does director Andrei Şerban exchange the overwhelming emotions from Uncle Vanya? With the gravity of answerless questions, with a meditation about the unfairness of destiny, about the futile efforts of the sisters to communicate; in other words, with the big themes which most probably constituted also the reason that Şerban choose to stage Bergman’s movie. (…)
To say that the Hungarian actresses’ performance was impeccable is a truism, like saying there is light during the day and darkness during the night. (…)
A serious, heavy, well-edited spectacle, that keeps step with the conscious, coordinated directorial proposition, and the incontestable performances of the actors.
Cristina Rusiecki: „Roagă-te pentru noi, cei ce am rămas pe pămîntul acesta mizerabil” ["Pray for Us who Remain on this Miserable Earth"], ArtAct Magazine, February 3, 2010
Şerban’s idea is not only ingenious, but also theatrically generous. It is, first of all, a bow of respect to Bergman from a great theatre director and a few highly professional actors. Next, it is an annihilation of the borders between the fourth and the seventh art form, combining, adapting and valorizing specific methods, unifying related art forms, offering the audience a new perspective on aesthetics. And, last but not least, it is an artistic juggling with the power which the theatrical illusion, the “state of grace”, can exercise.
BITEF International Theatre Festival, Serbia (2011)
International Theatre Festival, Plzeň, Czech Republic (2012)
National Theatre of South Korea, Seoul (2013)
The performance received the Awards from the UNITER (Romanian Theatre Union):
Best Performance of the Year 2010
Best Direction of the Year (Andrei Şerban)
Best Actor of the Year (Zsolt Bogdán)
Date of the opening: january 24, 2010
By arrangement with Josef Weinberger Limited, London, on behalf of the Ingmar Bergman Foundation (www.ingmarbergman.se).
I like to lay impossible bets with myself. To stage Cries and Whispers, one of the most staggering movies in the history of cinema is a challenge I take without knowing where it leads, without knowing if it is possible to recreate on stage that unsurpassable experience the movie provides. Bergman says: "Sometimes it is a special happiness to be a movie director. Suddenly, a never-before-seen facial gesture is born and the camera records it. That's exactly what happened today. The camera recorded this moment. Pain surfaced for a second, and the camera caught it. On such occasions, I feel that my work wasn't futile. Maybe I live for these passing moments. Like a pearl-diver."
Are we capable of recreating these short moments of truth on the stage also? Bergman rehearsed with his actresses before shooting. We are trying to investigate how this project began. To imagine how the fiction of the movies became reality, to penetrate the mystery of creation of one of the greatest directors and of four exceptional actresses.
Four women constitute the kernel of the story: Agnes, who is dying, her sisters, Karin and Maria, who come to be with her, and Anna, the maid. The whispers and cries of the title are theirs. Andrei Şerban