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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There are books, upon books, upon books, written solely on theinterpretation of Bergman's spellbinding "Persona". And I'm going to try to do my best in 7 paragraphs.
Ingmar Bergman always stated (in the multiple interviews I have read) that in his ideal movie, he would just show the ( I'm paraphrasing), "power of the human face, for an hour and a half." In "Persona" Bergman almost accomplishes that. Bergman states that he started noticing compelling similarities between Liv Ullman, and Bibi Andersson, and while he was ailing from surgery (and worth noting heavily medicated), he decided to write this movie.
In an extremely brief plot synopsis, an actress (played by LivUllman), Elisabeth Vogler after a performance, mysteriously stopsspeaking. It is up to the nurse Sister Alma, (Bibi Andersson) to cure the actress. Sister Alma, ends up projecting herself on to Elisabeth, and starts to steal her identity. But for me, this film is primarily about the technique and the cinematography... the plot I believe in Bergman's eyes was secondary.
This shows multiple technical achievements, and the seemingly nonsequitur/stock footage montage in the beginning, is one of the most debated scenes in regards to symbolism in cinematic history.
There are multiple scenes where the film makes it known that it's a film. Specifically one where Elisabeth and Alma are fighting and then the film starts to crackle and burn away... critics have stated that this is a metaphor for their relationship. As I write that, it doesn't sound impressive. But the idea( that I believe) to take away from this, is that the medium (film) itself, is a character.
Point being, if you are a fan of challenging art films, this isdefinitely the film for you. There are many other moments of quizzical meta-cinematic moments where the fourth wall is broken down. For instance, you see a crew in the background in a couple of scenes, and initially when you start the film, you hear the projector start up, making you realize you are entering another world... and Bergman makes it known that with the next frames you see, it is a jarring, nonsensical world you enter.
It is clear that Alma, wanted to have Elisabeth's persona, she was jealous of the life that Elisabeth had. Bergman here is playing with envy, and more specifically, how we emulate the celebrities we praise. Alma literally usurps the spirit and the personality of Elisabeth, so much so, that all that Elisabeth has to say in the film is the word, "nothing".
Bergman here is at his most cerebral, this is a tougher film of his to get into. But if you do let yourself get into this film, it is a very challenging , yet very rewarding experience. Considering he has Nykvist as his cinematographer, it explains how beautiful and haunting some of the imagery of the film is.
Nykvist and Bergman showcase the similarities and the beauty of both actresses halfway through the feature -just about when the"transformation" is complete- and by the slow blur and eventualsuper-imposition of the characters' features looking like onehomogeneous new character. You will be shocked when you can not tell the difference. This is one of the most memorable shots in cinematic history to me, (along with the zoom/pull in, in "Stagecoach" the reveal, in "The Third Man" and the triple imposition at the end of "Psycho"). Go challenge yourself and be rewarded with a screening of this magnificent film.