Watched: August 31 2020

Director: Ingmar Bergman

Starring: Liv Ullman, Bibi Andersson

Year: 1966

Runtime: 1h 20min

persona1

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Actress Elisabet Vogler (Ullmann) stopped speaking after a performance of Elektra, and nurse Alma (Andersson) is tasked with looking after her and, if possible, bring her back to the world.

persona2
“I was sure I heard the doctor say you should take care of me, not just stand around posing in the background…”

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The two women retreat to an isolated summer house for some R&R. Soon, Alma bonds strongly with her patient – to the point where she starts finding it difficult to distinguish between herself and Elisabet…

persona3
“OMG, I can’t even tell us apart anymore! #twinsies!”

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So far, this might be our favourite Bergman, and not just because Liv Ullmann is from our city (sort of. Technically, she was born in Tokyo but our local cinema has a whole exhibition about her which is irrefutable proof that she’s officially from Trondheim). As regular readers will have gathered, we love psychological horror dramas with strong female characters and beautiful cinematography, and Persona checks all the boxes.

persona4
If anyone’s wondering what to get us for Christmas, this entire outfit, luggage included, would not go amiss. Make a note!

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We loved the Un Chien Andalou-esque opening, the performances of both main characters, the very explanatory exposition scene at the beginning (we enjoy a good tell-don’t-show-scene), and the Swedish language (this might be considered treason, but Swedish is perhaps more beautiful than Norwegian, despite sounding a tiny bit whiny..).

persona5
Just a second – you’ve got something on your face.

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It is quiet and violent at the same time, beautiful and repulsive, impossible to understand (although Bergman claimed it’s very straight forward and simple), and thoroughly fascinating. It is also a very probable inspiration for Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) – the two might make a good, though emotionally exhausting, double feature. Definitely recommended!

persona6
Say cheese!

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What we learned: Ingmar, your idea of “simple and straight forward” is very different from ours…

Next time: Seconds (1966)

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