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Persona [1966] [DVD]

4.5 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullmann, Margaretha Krook, Gunnar Björnstrand, Jörgen Lindström
  • Directors: Ingmar Bergman
  • Writers: Ingmar Bergman
  • Producers: Ingmar Bergman
  • Format: PAL, Black & White, Subtitled, Dolby, Digital Sound
  • Language: Swedish
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.37:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Tartan
  • DVD Release Date: 28 April 2003
  • Run Time: 80 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00008OP6Y
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 62,810 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
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Product description

Product Description

Study of womanhood and identity, featuring two of Ingmar Bergman's greatest leading ladies, Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson. Elizabeth (Ullmann) is a famous actress who is taken ill and left without speech. While convalescing on the coast, she is cared for by Nurse Alma (Andersson) and, silenced by the effect of her - possibly psychosomatic - illness, finds that her nurse does the talking for both of them. Gradually, the two women's personalities merge and the boundaries between their identities begin to blur.


Made in 1966, Persona is among Ingmar Bergman's greatest, most vital movies, made during a difficult period in his life (Bergman's life is one short on easy times), having been hospitalised following a viral infection. It was while laid up that he conceived the notion of Persona, in which a famous actress, Elisabet (Liv Ullmann) suddenly lapses into a muteness from which, though mentally and physically healthy, she refuses to emerge. She is attended to by a young, naive nurse, Alma (Bibi Andersson) who develops an obsession, bordering on infatuation with her silent charge. She finds herself jabbering all of her innermost secrets to her and, little by little, through dream sequences, repeated dialogue and trick photography, it's as if the consciousnesses of the two women have actually merged.

With its opening sequence of cryptic projected reel images (allusions to Bergman's previous work), jarringly atonal soundtrack and devices such as the audible chatter of camera crew, Persona contains an unusual share of avant-garde trimmings, which haven't necessarily stood the test of time. However, the relationship between Alma and Elisabet dominates the movie. Some confounded critics wondered if theirs was a lesbian relationship.

Actually, Persona is an occasionally cryptic but overwhelmingly powerful meditation on the parasitic interaction between Art and Life, the way the former feeds off the latter (Alma is distraught to discover a letter at one point which suggests Elisabet has been coolly observing her, as if for material). However, as an early scene featuring TV footage of a Vietnamese Buddhist monk torching himself as a protest against the war, it's also about the helpless incapacity of art to "say" anything in the face of grim reality. A small film budget-wise, but a colossal event in world cinema. --David Stubbs

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Originally some the earlier Bergman films harder for me to get into,
because most of the Bergman I saw first were from late in his career
and far more 'naturalistic' - 'Fanny and Alexander', 'Autumn Sonata',
'Scenes From a Marriage' etc. I don't think I understood that for much
of his great career he was as much an experimentalist (at times) as
David Lynch, or Fellini, or Kubrick or Godard. Now that I understand
that, it's easier for me to get excited by the earlier experimental

Also, with 'Persona' the experiment seems more subtle and complex than
in some of Bergman's other early work. The themes are right out in the
open but there's much less literalness in the questions. The whole FILM
is a series of questions, but posed in a poetic way - what is identity?
What is acting? What is film? What are the boundaries between people?
What is reality and what is a dream, both in this film, and in our own

This is a haunting deeply disturbing work, and part of it's very
effectiveness is it's 'unexplainability', ala '2001' or a Magritte
painting. Like a Koan, it forces you to try and make sense of something
that has no simple answer.

On first viewing there were a few times when things felt a little on
the nose, or my feeling of 'huh?' was the bad kind, not the good one.

But this is a fascinating film, that combines some of the most truly
dreamlike sequences I've ever seen with what seems a conventional
narrative, only to curve in on itself into obscurity yet again. It is
ultimately the kind of puzzle that art does best - it makes you ponder
things both consciously and subconsciously at the same time.
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Bought this as a gift and it was given today. The disc does not play and is marked. Very disappointed as it was a gift.
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This film is a cinematic tour de force, dominated by the imposing performances of Liv Ulman and Bibi Anderson, whose physical likeness weighs heavily on the film's signification. The film works on a subliminal level and demands a non-linear method of viewing. More than a story it is a bricolage of images, streams of consciousness and playful tricks of the camera that may sometimes confound, but are eventually illuminatingly rewarding. The story, charged with a latent sexual electricity (which, neverhteless, does not warrant a certificate 18 in no way...), unfolds as much on the visual as on the discursive level. The sequence where the faces of Elisabet and Alma, the Mask and the Soul, merge is one of the most powerful in modern cinema.
The DVD has the common structure of the Bergman collection, but the Film Notes in this case are most illuminating and welcome.
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Although made in the mid-sixties, this film only dates in some of the somewhat jarring cinematic effects chosen by Bergman. However, this is also a mark of his work. The story is at once both simple and complex. Above all, the acting by Bibi Andersson as the young nurse adjacent to the cool and at times menacing silence of Elisabet played by Liv Ullman provides a powerful pair of performances.
Although this is a film for those interested in the work of Bergman, it also provides an interesting revelation of how an individual responds to a constant silence from their charge. The literature of negotiation tactics points to the power of silence to make an opponent uncomfortable and at the same time to seek confirmation of their position. Persona takes this to the extreme, where the nurse finds herself chattering away incessantly, whilst revealing ever deeper secrets about herself. She is as much revealing these to herself as to her charge Elisabet. Yet if you watch the film ask yourself who is really doing the revealing.
Well worth watching - it is understandable why this film stunned the critics at the time.
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Persona is a very 60s film, having an air of intellectual playfulness side by side with the rigour of a Greek tragedy. It constantly feels like an experimentation, and dissolves the boundary between serious and light, anguished and living in the pale glare of truth. Two women withdraw from the mental hospital where they are patient (Liv Ullmann) and younger nurse (Bibi Andersson), not that the age difference is all that great ... the former, Elisabet Vogler, is a famous actress, though, and a mother, where the younger, Alma, seems to be in the grip of a youthful striving for meaning. Elisabet has suddenly stopped talking, in the middle of a performance on stage, and goes to the hospital, but the director quickly decides she would be better off in her house by the sea, with the nurse. What follows is a monologue which the actress only listens to; Alma imagines her responding this way and that, but tensions arise when she realises Elisabet is writing about what she has heard in letters to the director. The identity of the women becomes confused, in an ever more strained interdependence, but it also has a lot of tenderness. Many details are hard to fathom, but Bergman no doubt intended it to be fluid and open-ended. Attitudes to motherhood and priorities seem to loom large; also the idea of not being authentic, of wearing a mask as in a performance; and finally it is about light and dark, two faces, film and no film; the images are very striking and pure, as is the avant-garde score. Made in 1966, it seems to have brought in a wave of films looking into the female condition, such as Opening Night, also about an actress in crisis. It is admirably succinct, though, at only 80 minutes - and this is the director's cut! No one need be put off by any description as horror - it really isn't that, and is indeed a film of remarkable purity and even warmth, I would say - but this is unknowable, really.
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