The first Bergman film I ever saw was a television showing (on PBS) of The Virgin Spring. I remember being horrorfied by the rape sequence and traumatized by the film. I was maybe 11 years old, watching alone and really didn't understand what I was seeing. But I knew I had seen something amazing and powerful. The image of the just raped girl, standing there in shock (just before she's murdered) is still vivid 40 years later without having seen the film again.
When I turned 12, I was allowed to take the train into Manhattan alone. It was the early 70's, my parents lived on Long Island and things were looser. Probably not safer than today, but there was less worrying about your kids getting into trouble.
After a few visits to the Museum of Natural History to overcome a youthful fascination (dinosaur bones lose their appeal when you can see them anytime you want) I began to go the movies. With no one watching over me I was seeing films like the newly released "Clockwork Orange" - another shocking experience for a young adolescent.
And then I went to see "Cries and Whispers". Did I understand what I was watching? - maybe - just barely. But I was in shock from seeing (and feeling) the kind of tragic emotions I never knew existed. (They existed in my own family - but buried under the surface where I, as the youngest child, was unaware of them till much later.) My memories of plot and character are vague now - but in my mind I still see the colors of black and red and the texture of velvet somehow associated with blood. I still remember the shock of seeing tragic intimacies I never imagined.
If I see "Cries and Whispers" again someday, I will see it with an adult, analytical mind. And with the developed empathy of someone who has now spent years watching plays and movies, trying to understand characters, plot, and structure.
But I hope I always remember the sense memories of seeing something I didn't understand on a conscious level ... something that pierced into me in a way I had no language or framework to describe and thereby lessen the impact.