A breakthrough film for Bergman, Persona is also one of the key films of post-war cinema. Purity of expression in Bergman achieves its absolute height in this film, in which nothing is quite as it appears. Nurse Alma (Bibi Andersson) goes to an island with a famous actress, Elizabeth (Liv Ullmann), who has suddenly become silent, having dried up in the middle of a performance on stage. Alone with each other, the women gradually change roles. The more the nurse relates the details of her own private life, the more control the actress assumes. Like the psychologist Jung, Bergman is probing beneath the persona (the Latin word for mask) into the cellar of the subconscious where resides the true alma (or soul-image). The sense of psychological breakdown is communicated directly to the audience, both in the superlative performances and in Bergman’s groundbreaking formal devices, which include a depiction of the film itself breaking down as it speeds through a projector.
1966.English subtitles.Black and white.84 mins.