One of Ingmar Bergman's most radical films, 'Persona' can be viewed as a journey in which personality, meaning and individuality blur between fantasy and reality. The tale of a famous actress Elizabet Vogler (Liv Ullman), who inexplicably stops talking, and the young nurse Alma (the astonishing Bibi Andersson) who cares for her at an isolated seaside cottage, this 1966 offering is for many, Bergman's finest film.
Pouring her troubles onto her charge, Alma appears to be strong willed and level-headed, slowly taking charge over her silent counterpart. But faced with this enigmatic patient, her cool facade slowly starts to crumble and she realises that nurse and patient aren't so very different.
The thing with Persona, is that it may baffle film fans who are new to Bergman's work. Recurring motifs like the image of the spider (God), lamb to the slaughter (Christian legacy), and the young boy in a cold room (the boy from 'the silence' 1963) may not mean much to people who haven't seen much of Bergman's work. So as a starting point to Bergman's films this may be too much (and for those who haven't seen any Bergman films, why?), but for any serious film fan, this is essential.
This was the film that cemented Bergman's reputation as not only a film maker, but as an artist. For many, the late, great nordic master comes across as too despairing, too bleak. No argument here. But viewed as a visual poem, this ranks high in the running with the world's best. Bergman's use of isolated location, taboo breaking content and technical wizardry (the two women's faces merge in one extraordinary shot), mean this is baffling, brilliant and at times, beyond words.