on 18 January 2006
Quite simply one of the most remarkable and intense films I have seen, with subject matter that is a milion miles from anything Hollywood can offer.
Nurse and patient, that is basically the premise of the story here but it is far more multi-layered and complex through the lens of Ingmar Bergman.
Eerie and somewhat desolate summer locations are mixed in with stark hospital scenes,camera trickery and dialogue. There are surreal episodes that are all essential to this tale of mental disintegration,possibly schizophrenia.
The leading ladies are typically Nordic,graceful,enchanting and attractive, which works as a camoflage for the unsettling subject matter.
Another masterpiece from scriptwriter/director Bergman.
Note: Package wise another great DVD from Tartan. The quality is good throughout and as usual Bergmans astonishing black and white images are faithfully restored.
on 30 July 2005
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.
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.
The two lead performances by Bibi Anderson and Liv Ullmann are
extraordinary, and Sven Nykvist again creates a series of unforgettable
images (now with the wider palate that Bergman started towards in 'The
Silence' - more camera moves, more 'cinematic' angles.).
But the nexus of this film, isn't the acting or the photography (though
the film would fail miserably without both being great), this is a film
about the inside of the filmmaker's mind, and by extension the inside
of all of our minds as we fight to make sense of the lives we lead.
It also has the single most erotic scene where nothing physical happens
I've ever encountered. And it's that kind of paradox that 'Persona' is
all about. I know I will get more from repeated viewings. The film begs
It's also impossible to note how many films since have borrowed its
techniques and images. Indeed, after the rare moments I felt
dismissively 'we've seen this idea before', I'd realize 'no we HADN'T
seen it before Bergman made this film'.
on 21 February 2008
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.
on 17 January 2017
The film is a classic - a 20 century icon - there was no indication that it was dubbed into Italian and you couldn't get rid of it. The seller was incredibly unhelpful to the point of rudeness.
Get the film - but from a seller who cares about what they are selling and cares about the audience.
on 17 April 2006
Widely considered to be one of the best films ever made, Persona follows the developing relationship between two women: Elisabet Vogler, an actress who has chosen to stop speaking altogether, and Alma, the nurse assigned to take care of her. In the idyllic and intense environment of a cottage on a windswept coastline, Elisabet's silence leads Alma to divulge more and more about herself and her life - telling her things she has told no-one else before. As the film progresses, the line between dream and reality starts to blur and the two women's identities start to mingle. The acting and direction are stunning, and make this a powerful and unique film which rewards being watched time and again.
on 18 June 2014
This film is astonishing in every way.
The beauty of certain scenes resonates with what is human in us, and the ideas explored help us to understand what being a human being can be for those of us that sometimes dare to think, question and feel...
on 6 June 2004
The reviewer "greyplover" has written a very funny and direct so-called "review" of Persona. Having just watched it for the fourth time at the cinema and about to watch Woody Allen on Bergman on television before a further screening of the film, I can say that while "greyplover"'s honesty and turn of phrase are to be admired, s/he has missed the mark by a million miles. Yes, the film is disorientating and confusing, much more so than many contemporary films with complex and/or inconsistent narratives such as anything to come from the pen of Andy Kaufmann, but this is part of the point. It features an extraordinary performance by Bibi Andersson, some of Sven Nykvist's finest photography and has an emotional effect rarely rivalled in cinema. Bergmann said that, with Persona and Cries and Whispers, he took film as far as he could. Never one to shirk from self-criticism, Bergmann's words are endorsement enough to see Persona. Even repeated reviewings do not completely pierce the complexity but they do confirm an unadulterated masterpiece.
on 28 November 2003
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.
on 4 April 2016
I can not praise this film enough. ThIs the reason I consider Bergman one of the deepest filmmakers ever. He tells a story of successful theatrical actress, who stops acting in the middle of public performance and doesn't utter a word latter to the point she is admitted to mental hospital, where psiciatrist tells her: I know what is going on. You realised that you acting all your life and you feel fake, so not saying anything you lie less and stay closer to the truth. Continue this until you turn it in yourself. And she gives her young nurse to accompany her in a remote house by the seashore. Whole film is basically a monolog of young nurse who tries to reach this closed person. Can she reach her? Maybe she can do it against her will? Watch this drama how it unfolds, because it raises questions about human condition which relates to all of us. On top of that the film is stunning beauty, due to cinematography, acting and experimental in form.