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Persona (1966)

Not Rated | | Drama, Thriller | 16 March 1967 (USA)
A nurse is put in charge of a mute actress and finds that their personas are melding together.

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Top Rated Movies #199 | Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 6 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

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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

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

Genres:

Drama | Thriller

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Not Rated | See all certifications »

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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

The Doctor: I understand, all right. The hopeless dream of being - not seeming, but being. At every waking moment, alert. The gulf between what you are with others and what you are alone. The vertigo and the constant hunger to be exposed, to be seen through, perhaps even wiped out. Every inflection and every gesture a lie, every smile a grimace. Suicide? No, too vulgar. But you can refuse to move, refuse to talk, so that you don't have to lie. You can shut yourself in. Then you needn't play any parts or ...
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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

The Art Of Bergman
14 January 2008 | by (Dallas, Texas) – See all my reviews

From its opening, seemingly random B&W images, Ingmar Bergman's "Persona" screams intellectualism. The film is cold, clinical, and abstract. It induces deep, philosophical questions that lack answers, or questions that provide for a multiplicity of emotionally unsatisfying answers.

About eight minutes into the film, the story begins. In a hospital, young Nurse Alma (Bibi Andersson) is assigned to care for Elisabeth Vogler (Liv Ullmann), an actress who, for no apparent reason, has ceased speaking. Concluding that there is nothing physically or mentally wrong with Elisabeth, the hospital exports her to a seaside cottage, where she is to be cared for by Nurse Alma. Most of the rest of the film is set at the cottage, where the two women get to know each other. But throughout, Elisabeth does not speak. She communicates only with facial expressions and body gestures.

For all of Elisabeth's silence, the film's script is remarkably talky. Nurse Alma talks in long monologues: asking, probing, recalling. She tries to build a relationship with Elisabeth, by vocalizing her own memories and emotional pains in life. Certainly, the film's curious narrative has a lot to "say" about the art, or rather the artificiality, of human communication.

The best element of the film is the artistic, B&W cinematography by Sven Nykvist. Lighting trends toward high contrast, with stark boundaries between light and darkness, a feature that contributes to the film's cold, intellectual tone. There are lots of close-up shots, even extreme close-ups, of the two women. The film's production design is ascetic, unadorned, austere. And this, too, enhances the analytic, abstract feel of the film.

Bergman conceived "Persona" while he was confined to a hospital. And I am inclined to think that the film is a cinematic expression of his own inward psychological struggles during that period of his life.

In other words, "Persona" communicates to us as much about Bergman's mindset, and his ideas of suffering and reality, as it does about any deep, universal questions in a post-modern world, although to some extent, the two dimensions intersect and overlap. Bergman is telling us that, ultimately, the film is not real. It is "nothing". It is an artificial human construct. That is, it is art, a perception that approximates, but does not replace, what we experience as reality.


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