Persona (1966)

persona poster 1966 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

Interesting character study that requires thought

A draw your own conclusions type of story that could be frustrating to some

Movie Info

Movie Name:   Persona

Studio:  AB Svensk Filmindustri

Genre(s):   Drama

Release Date(s):   August 31, 1966

MPAA Rating:   Not Rated

persona opening scene kid

It starts weird and doesn’t quit….

Actress Elisabet Volger (Liv Ullmann) has had a break from reality.  She’s become mute and non-communicative even with her husband (Gunnar Björnstrand) and their child.  Elisabet is sent to a seaside cottage with Nurse Alma (Bibi Andersson), but Alma begins to suspect that Elisabet’s condition isn’t entirely genuine.  As their worlds begins to collapse around both Alma and Elisabet, the reality of the situation may be revealed.

Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, Persona is a psychological drama-thriller.  Following his 1964 film All These Women, the film was critically acclaimed upon its release and is often listed as an influential film for directors like David Lynch and Robert Altman.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #701).

Bergman is a great director, and Persona is usually listed as one of his best films.  The movie was a “blind” purchase when I saw it on sale for cheap on Blu-Ray…and it was definitely worth the purchase.  It is one of those movies that you admire what you are seeing, but you aren’t quite sure what it is.

persona elisabet alma bibi andersson liv ullmann

A trip to the beach will be good for us they said

The story for the film is where the film really creates these questions.  Bergman continuously throws things at you that you aren’t sure how they relate to the plot (or if they even relate to the plot).  It could all be a dream or delusion of the characters (or character if Alma or Elisabet even exist…did Elisabet create Alma or Alma create Elisabet?), but you don’t really know. I see a lot of my favorite Lynch film Mulholland Dr. in Persona, and Lynch lists this as an influence…much like that film, the two lead actresses begin to merge into one.

Both Liv Ullman and Bibi Andersson are strong as the leads of the film.  Both feel like they have to completely commit to the roles for them to work and they do that.  Andersson and Ullman give performances that feel vulnerable and exposed.

persona alma elisabet bibi andersson liv ullmann

Hey Elisabet…lurk much?

The visuals of Persona also sell this weird, dreamlike feeling of the film.  Despite being over fifty years old, the movie (in good transfers) is as clear and crispy as a modern film.  Bergman uses the great seaside location (like he does in many of films) but mixes with moments of dreams and weird illusions.  It also almost feels invasive as a viewer to watch the women in private because the movie feels personal.

Persona is one of those head-scratching films.  The movie is largely a question mark and even film scholars debate what is happening within the story and what happens at the end of the film.  Sometimes that can be frustrating for viewers, but in this case, it doesn’t personally bother me much.  It is a challenging film that deserves multiple viewings to take multiple ideas from it…and you probably will never unravel it completely.  Bergman followed Persona with a segment in the anthology Stimulantia in 1967 and Hour of the Wolf in 1968.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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