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130 customer reviews

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(Feb 10, 2004)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

With some of the most iconic imagery ever committed to film, this exceptionally beautiful specimenof movie-making (The New Yorker) is recognized as a modern masterpiece and a landmark in late twentieth-century art (Time Out London). Actress Elisabet Vogler (Liv Ullmann) has stopped speaking and withdrawn completely. Under doctor's orders, she's taken to a remote seaside cottage by a nurse, Alma (Bibi Andersson). Alma chats to fill the silence and gradually begins to lay bareher entire identity until she discovers it is being coolly sucked away from her. As the women battle for control and sanity, the question becomes not which of them is patient and which is caregiver, but are they two separate women at all?

Ingmar Bergman's 1966 film, photographed by Sven Nykvist, begins when famous actress Elisabeth Vogler (Liv Ullmann) freezes on stage in the middle of a performance. Struck dumb by an unknown cause, she winds up in the care of young inexperienced nurse Alma (Bibi Andersson), and together they retreat to the seaside for the summer, where they enter into an uncommon intimacy and clash of wills. Bergman's study of the fragility of the human being and the treachery of life is incredibly moving in its perception and unrivaled imagery. And as always with Bergman and his reappearing ensemble of actors, the performances are flawless. Especially notable is the scene in which Alma recounts for the silent Elisabeth a morally and emotionally ambivalent erotic encounter she had experienced on a beach with a friend and two teenage boys. It is one of the most strangely erotic scenes ever filmed, and not a stitch of clothing is removed. Also of interest, and one of the most intriguing scenes in the film, perhaps among the most intriguing in all of cinema, is when Elisabeth paces barefooted back and forth over a patio on which we know there to be broken glass. It is an achievement in simple suspense from which many an aspiring director of thrillers could learn a bit. For those who've had their fill of predictable plots, irrelevant matter, and apish acting and are looking for something a little more sensual, poetic, and relevant to what life is about beyond the daily grind, this may be a good place to start. --James McGrath

Special Features

  • Original uncensored theatrical version
  • Brand-new digital film transfer presented in the original aspect ratio (1.33:1)
  • Original Swedish audio and English audio
  • Commentary by Bergman biographer Marc Gervais
  • "A Poem in Images" featurette
  • On-camera interviews with Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson
  • Photo gallery
  • Original theatrical trailer

Product Details

  • Actors: Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullmann, Margaretha Krook, Gunnar Björnstrand, Jörgen Lindström
  • Directors: Ingmar Bergman
  • Writers: Ingmar Bergman
  • Producers: Ingmar Bergman
  • Format: Black & White, Dubbed, Full Screen, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled
  • Language: Swedish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • DVD Release Date: February 10, 2004
  • Run Time: 83 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (130 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000YEEHG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,152 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Persona" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

115 of 120 people found the following review helpful By Gary F. Taylor HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 22, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
PERSONA may well be Ingmar Bergman's most complex film--yet, like many Bergman films, the story it tells is superficially simple. Actress Elizabeth Volger has suddenly stopped speaking in what appears to be an effort to cease all communication with the external world. She is taken to a hospital, where nurse Alma is assigned to care for her. After some time, Elisabeth's doctor feels the hospital is of little use to her; the doctor accordingly lends her seaside home to Elisabeth, who goes there with Alma in attendance. Although Elisabeth remains silent, the relationship between the women is a pleasant one--until a rainy day, too much alcohol, and Elisabeth's silence drives Alma into a series of highly charged personal revelations.

It is at this point that the film, which has already be super-saturated with complex visual imagery, begins to create an unnerving and deeply existential portrait of how we interpret others, how others interpret us, and the impact that these interpretations have upon both us and them. What at first seemed fond glances and friendly gestures from the silent Elisabeth are now suddenly open to different interpretations, and Alma--feeling increasingly trapped by the silence--enters into a series of confrontations with her patient... but these confrontations have a dreamlike quality, and it becomes impossible to know if they are real or imagined--and if imagined, in which of the women's minds the fantasy occurs.

Ultimately, Bergman seems to be creating a situation in which we are forced to acknowledge that a great deal of what we believe we know about each other rests largely upon what we ourselves project upon them.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Edward Scott Haas on December 26, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
This is one of Bergman's most challenging psychological studies ever. It asks (or rather inspires the viewer to ask) radical questions about personality, identity and character by presenting a woman who one day just stops living her life; stops talking, working or responding to others. This rejection of both self and society poses a threat to others who don't know how to interpret what is going on and can't ask her directly. Is your identity ("persona") something you are--a personal soul or essence? Is it something you choose to do (a series of actions)? Is it a role forced on you by society and culture? All Bergman fans should have a copy of this film. It is at least as essential as *The Seventh Seal* and much more important than anything he did in the 70s and 80s. Many of his films are about the silence or non-existence of God; but *Persona* dares to show us a world in which we are not even sure that people truly exist.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Galina on January 10, 2007
Format: DVD
When talking of Bergman, critics and viewers usually name "Wild Strawberries", "The Seventh Seal" or "Cries and Whispers" ahead of Persona. While those films are all amazing and stay very high on my list of all time favorites, for me, the truly unique and unforgettable is "Persona" - Bergman's enigmatic masterpiece.

The story is seemingly simple:

"A nurse, Alma (Bibi Andersson), has been assigned to care for a famous actress, Elizabeth (Liv Ullman), who suddenly stopped speaking during a performance of Electra and has remained silent ever since. When they go to stay in a seaside house owned by Alma's psychiatrist colleague, the apparently self-confident nurse gradually reveals more and more of herself in the face of Elizabeth's silence, and is shocked to read a letter the actress has written implying that Alma is an interesting case-study. The two women seem almost to exchange identities, or to become one (strikingly expressed visually in a famous shot); in a dream sequence (or perhaps fantasy), Elizabeth's husband comes to visit and seems to think that Alma is his wife. Finally Alma, back in her nurse's uniform, catches a bus to go home, leaving the almost-mute Elizabeth alone."

Whether Alma was able to get her identity back remains one of the film's many questions.

What is absolutely wonderful in the film - performances from two actresses. Anderson is the one who has to carry almost the entire dialog, her voice is one of the film's priceless treasures while Ullman is equally powerful in expressing hundreds of emotions through her face and eyes. Sven Nykvist's camera, the third star of the film makes two stars shine so bright.

Each scene in 81 minutes long film is memorable, some of them just unforgettable.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Bragan Thomas on August 3, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
PERSONA is everything a film should be - visually groundbreaking, thematically complex, and a deeply involving emotional experience. The plot is almost laughably simple: A famous stage actress, Elisabeth Vogler (Liv Ullmann) appears to have a nervous breakdown. Unwilling to speak or even interact with others, she is sent to recuperate at the seaside home of her doctor in the care of a young nurse, Sister Alma (Bibi Andersson). Over time, the talkative Alma becomes more and more obsessed with her famous patient, and resorts to emotional blackmail and even violence in her attempts to force Elisabeth to communicate with her. Ultimately, the two women's identities seem to blur into one. Driven nearly insane by her relationship with Elisabeth, Alma leaves her service. It is impossible to overstate how complicated a viewing experience PERSONA is for the uninitiated spectator. Both of the lead actresses are phenomenal. Liv Ullmann delivers one of the most nuanced and complex cinematic performances in existence, despite having no more than one line of dialogue (or possibly two). Bibi Andersson's interpretation of Alma is equally stunning - cool, calm and professional at first, then slowly descending into a whirlpool of self-doubt and then madness. Characteristic of this film is its ambiguity - the viewer is forced think for themselves about the meaning of events and individual sequences, rather than being spoon-fed a series of definitive images, as in Hollywood movies. Is Elisabeth actually ill, or is she merely selfish, acting yet another role to manipulate those around her? Is Alma's mental breakdown the result of Elisabeth's treatment of her, or does she bring it on herself by using Elisabeth as a blank screen on which she projects her own fantasies?Read more ›
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