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Persona (1966)

Not Rated | | Drama, Thriller | 16 March 1967 (USA)
A nurse is put in charge of an actress who can't talk and finds that the actress's persona is melding with hers.

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Top Rated Movies #189 | Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 6 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

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Margaretha Krook ...
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Storyline

A young nurse, Alma, is put in charge of Elisabeth Vogler: an actress who is seemingly healthy in all respects, but will not talk. As they spend time together, Alma speaks to Elisabeth constantly, never receiving any answer. Alma eventually confesses her secrets to a seemingly sympathetic Elisabeth and finds that her own personality is being submerged into Elisabeth's persona. Written by Kathy Li

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

actress | nurse | silence | beach | medical | See All (78) »

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One of the ten greatest films of all time See more »

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Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

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Details

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Release Date:

16 March 1967 (USA)  »

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Persona  »

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1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Although the age of boys Alma and her friend had sex with on the beach is never stated, the script specifies their ages as 13 and 16. See more »

Quotes

Sister Alma: He's calling again. I'll find out what he wants from us. Out here, far away in our loneliness.
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Connections

Featured in Hour of the Wolf: The Search for Sanity (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Adagio from Concerto No. 2 in E major for Violin, Strings and Continuo, BWV 1042
Written by Johann Sebastian Bach
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User Reviews

 
"Your hiding place isn't watertight. Life trickles in from the outside, and you're forced to react."
12 April 2008 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

Ingmar Bergman's 'Persona (1966)' opens with a bewildering montage of sounds and images, a frenzied newsreel of sex, death, cinema and comedy. The sequence is so far removed from my previous experience with the director that its effect is jarring, shocking; I momentarily wondered if I'd hit a wrong button and started playing Buñuel's 'Un chien andalou (1929)' by mistake. I question Bergman's motives for including such an uncharacteristic opening, for it appears to have very little to do with the narrative that follows. Is this montage - an account of the sickening and concealed horrors and desires of society - a possible explanation for Elisabeth's continued silence? Even so, it all seems somewhat exploitative, as though Bergman was simply going for shock-value, obliterating any notions of subtlety with which I had begun to associate him {though I'll admit that the strength of 'The Seventh Seal (1957)' arose from its not-so-subtle representation of Death}. The opening scene concludes with a young boy awakening in the morgue, his hand outstretched towards the vague image of a woman's face. Elisabeth's unloved child? Alma's aborted fetus?

An endless line of critics, it seems, have celebrated 'Persona' as a masterpiece, and among the greatest films ever made. I'd hate to be the lone voice of dissent, but the film is certainly the lesser of the three Bergmans I've hitherto seen, if only due to the noticeable absence of the good-natured humour to be found in both 'The Seventh Seal (1957)' and 'Wild Strawberries (1957)'. If, indeed, I were to describe 'Persona' as a masterpiece, it would be in regards to the visuals, which, photographed by long-time Bergman collaborator Sven Nykvist, are beyond description in their detail and intimacy. The film takes particular interest in the human face, and entire conversations of words and emotions are played out through the communication of the eyes, and the glimmering hint of a smile on the lips. There is one immortal moment in the film when Bergman juxtaposes the faces of each woman onto the screen, merging Elisabeth (Liv Ullmann) and Alma (Bibi Andersson) into a single entity.

Persona also includes one of the most vivid depictions of sex that I've ever seen. Though the film shows us nothing, Alma's whispered description of an intimate encounter on the beach is staggering in its effectiveness; her words allow the viewer to formulate their own visuals, every emotion and nuance perfectly incorporated from the rich story we are being told. Though I may exhaust hours spouting the merits of Ingmar Bergman's film, I can't escape the fact that watching 'Persona' felt very much like a chore. The film boasts a relatively short running time, but it never seems to attain any comfortable sense of rhythm, and, by the film's end, I was left wondering just what the film was trying to get at. Bergman includes various allusions to Bertolt Brecht's "Verfremdungseffekt" effect – highlighting the inherent artificiality of the cinematic medium – with the film at one point appearing to burn; but, unlike in Fellini's '8½ (1963),' these self-referential flourishes seem to serve little foreseeable purpose. Am I looking too far into this film for meaning? Or am I not looking far enough? Even just hours afterwards, another layer of meaning has unfurled itself. Maybe it'll get better.


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