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Persona (1966)

Cast: Bibi Andersson, Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullmann, more...
Director: Ingmar Bergman, Ingmar Bergman
    see all cast/crew...
Rating: Not Rated
Studio: MGM
Genre: Drama, Foreign, Scandinavia
Running Time: 83 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
    see additional details...

Persona is difficult to characterize in simple terms, but it may be helpful to describe this complex film as being an exploration of identity that combines elements of drama, visual poetry, and modern psychology. The central story revolves around a young nurse named Alma (Bibi Andersson) and her patient, a well-known actress named Elisabet Vogler (Liv Ullmann). Elisabet has stopped speaking, and the attending psychiatrist treats the actress by sending her to an isolated seaside cottage under Alma's care. There the nurse, who must do all the talking for both women, becomes a little enamored of the actress. One evening Alma tells Elisabet about some exhilarating sexual experiences she once had and their unpleasant aftermath. Soon after sharing this confidence, the nurse reads a letter Elisabet has written and is shocked to learn that the actress thinks of her as an amusing study. The relationship between the women becomes tense, and they wound each other. Then Alma has a long dream in which her identity merges with that of Elisabet, but when the nurse awakes, both women have apparently come to at least temporary terms with their psychological problems. ~ All Movie Guide

Special Features:

  • "A Poem in Images" Featurette
  • On-Camera interviews with Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann
  • Commentary by Ingmar Bergman Biographer Marc Gervais
  • Photo Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer

GreenCine Member Reviews

Persona - puzzles, paradoxes, the nature of truth and quotation marks by hiseminence June 8, 2007 - 4:13 PM PDT
1 out of 3 members found this review helpful
"Persona" was certainly a period piece in an odd way -Bergman at his most (perhaps) flamboyantly nihilistic. Scene of Vietnam monks in self-immolation brings back (for those of us old enough) the distinct impression that the world was, even or especially then, falling apart (and some of us think that it has now done so perfectly (if falling apart can be done perfectly), that us survivors of the German concentration camps and Gulags and the Asian rice-paddys, and etc are twitching, ever-more-slowly, mannikins or robots with our batteries screwed up and running down.
But that bit of undigested philosophizing on my part is not important: what is important is The Puzzle: It seems that Liv Ulmann and others claim that in the entire film her character says nothing. This is not true. Liv Ulmann did not say nothing, nor did she say anything, nor did she say something (TOLD you quotations were important!). So one might opine: No, but if not Ulmann, who? well, at least the translator-captioneer said nothing. But no, the translator-captioneer said nothing of the sort, he/she did not say nothing, and did not say anything, nor something, but perhaps such translator/captioneer wrote a word at the bottom of the screen: nothing. This written word may or may not correspond to a mumbling at the end of the movie (presumably in Swedish by said Liv (but are you sure?). I do not know. But let us get our facts straight, ladies and gentlemen: Liv did not say "nothing," nor "anything," nor "something." The captioneer did not say "nothing," nor "anything," nor "something." The captioneer wrote "Rosebud" in capital letters, bedecked all around with the appropriate youngish flowers. At least in my feverishly recostructed version of the movie. This was supposed to be (in my mind) the other bookend to the penile structure at the beginning.
Happy viewing.

There Is No Cure for Silence by RJones3 March 27, 2007 - 12:16 PM PDT
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
Was that a penis? Would I look like a perfect fool if I suggested that it was? And if it were - if it was, why? Bergman now has us right where he wants us - perplexed by the obvious. Thus begins Persona, with a line drawing of an erect penis, but coyly flashed on the screen, not quite subliminally. It is best not to make too much of such an image, and best perhaps not to make too much of the movie that follows, but here we are. Persona illustrates a profound psychological truth: If you want to drive somebody crazy, just listen to them without saying anything. That makes Elizabeth more sinister than she is supposed to be. She is, after all, mute. Or is she? The psychiatrist says authoritatively that she is not sick. She just doesn't want to talk. Let her be mute for a while, until she gets tired of it. And let her recuperate at the doctor's idyllic summer retreat in perfect isolation with the nurse, Alma. Logically, then, the basic dramatic situation is established, and we can let the beautiful imagery of the film wash over us without thinking too much. Thinking, like speech, is asking for trouble. The relationship between Elizabeth and Alma is essentially a power relationship, with all the dramatic quality of a case history, except that in this case it is the medical professional who is symptomatic, and we the audience who must decide the cure.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 8.34)
168 Votes
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Moveline's 100 Best Foreign Films
This list was published in Moveline's July 1996 issue.
Paul Schrader's Canon: 50 Essential Films
As seen in the writer-director's lengthy, invigorating article in Film Comment Magazine.

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