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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 Actress Elisabet Vogler (Liv Ullmann) has stopped speaking and withdrawn completely.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
- 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
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Top Customer Reviews
Or is it just one life?
Among the pleasures of this film are the ways it can be interpreted. Are Elizabeth & Alma two aspects of the same woman? Are they two women, each one lacking what the other possesses? Is this a sexual seduction in progress? Or is it something much deeper, reaching down to the very roots of individual being?
As to the sexual aspect, Bergman demonstrates how the imagination is the most erotic part of being human, as Alma relates a youthful sexual adventure to Elizabeth. All we hear are her words, all we see are the women's faces ... but this sequence remains one of the most vividly powerful scenes of intense sexuality ever put on the movie screen. What our minds see & make our bodies feel is so much more erotic than any mere, blatantly graphic image could hope to be.
Yet that's only one aspect of the film, and hardly its most revealing one. What interests Bergman even more is the complicated, infinitely intertwining knot that is human desire, longing, and despair, searching for some resolution or illumination. What he offers here is not so much a definite answer as it is immediate experience for the viewer, who is left to respond & pursue the same questions. It's a film that invites multiple viewings, both for those perpetual questions & for its sheer beauty, thanks to the breathtaking black-&-white cinematography. Bergman has long had the reputation of being an intellectual filmmaker; I often think his eye for stunning beauty & poetic composition is neglected because of it. The film is an aesthetic marvel as well as an intellectual one!
For some, of course, all of this is just pretentious gobbledygook posing as transcendent depth. Certainly it won't appeal to everyone. And I'm sure Bergman's solemn reputation is off-putting to some potential viewers as well. But if you can set that aside & simply give yourself over to the film, you're likely to find yourself enthralled with it before long. And it will stay with you afterwards. Most highly recommended!
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'.
The more I look at these scenes & their construction the more impressed I am. I haven't seen every Bergman film but this is definitely the cream of the crop in my estimation. I will never tire of seeing this movie & being amazed at the care & skill put into its construction. It's a marvelous achievement & a joy to contemplate. The acting by Bibi Anderson & Liv Ullmann & cinematography (Sven Nykvist) are the equal of the directorial effort. Easily a 5 star Amazon rating for this film. Recommended to all.
I do admit to being puzzled by the montage lead-in. It really didn't seem to relate to anything in the movie & resembled the pictures used to test convicted felons for abnormal sexual responses. IMO it leads in a false direction for the film but perhaps the viewer is being tested.
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