I've studied Bergman's films and have seen all of them, yet Persona stands alone as his most brilliant and indeed, the most visually striking (thanks to the genius of Sven Nykvist). The story concerns a cracked actress (Liv Ullmann-Bergman's long-time lover), in hospital for treatment under the guise of a rather insecure nurse (Bibi Andersson). As the tale of care- giver and patient plays out, the nurse, Sister Alma, fills the void left by Liv Ullmann's complete silence and regression by offering a series of confessions on her own life. These confessions, most poignantly, consist of Alma's infidelities to her husband, a secret abortion and a unwanted pregnancy to please her husband. Through the course of the movie, set mainly in a summer retreat, the two women, left in seclusion, seem to drift into one another's personae. However, Bergman's dialogue turns more to first person confessional and not a tale of two women. Eventually, the viewer comes to the realization that the two women are actually two sides of the same person. Liv Ullmann represents, in pop-Freudian terms, the superego as Bibi Andersson is the ego or in other words, the 'actress' is actually the nurse and Liv Ullmann, the caretaker/observer. Elisabet Vogler is actually Bibi Andersson's persona; the one who answers to the external world, whilst shutting out the sensitive, introspective and broken inner persona, Liv Ullmann. The movie comes to a sad conclusion, wherein the actress wins out over the delicate, fractured woman deep within. As the lines in the movie say, they agree to "nothing", keeping the facade intact to the rest of her reality and keeping distant from her older husband and abandoning any attempt to love her son, born to please her husband. A line in the movie states blatantly that everyone has two personae; the one external and the one internal. This movie is one of the greatest human dramas with a psychological force rarely, if ever, seen today. Along with Casavetes' "A Woman on the Verge" and Lynch's "The Elephant Man", Bergman and Nykvist commit to film one of the most introspective studies of mortality, sanity and the human condition. A masterpiece.
Drama / Thriller
Drama / Thriller
A nurse is put in charge of a mute actress and finds that their personae are melding together.
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April 2, 2019