Sweden, the turn of the century. White gowned figures stand out against the red interior walls of the stately home. Agnes (Harriet Andersson), suffering from terminal cancer, lives here alone, cared for by her maid Anna (Kari Sylvan) and her doctor (Erland Josephson). Her sisters Karin (Ingrid Thulin) and Maria (Liv Ullmann) come to the house with their husbands to be with her in her dying hours. They whisper in Agnes’ presence.
Bergman examines the complicated relationships between the sisters and with their husbands in flashbacks. Agnes was always latently jealous of her mother’s darling, the self-centred Marie. Karin has become cold-hearted and embittered through her domineering husband. In her goodness and naïveté Agnes believes she has an intact, caring relationship with her sisters.
Cries and groans announce Agnes’ approaching death. In a dream-like, but realistically portrayed scene Agnes is laid out in a room after her death. However, she appears to be shedding tears. She has her sisters come to her and begs for their mercy. Both sisters turn away from her. Only the maid Anna climbs into her bed and consoles her.