is arguably Ingmar Bergman's most challenging and experimental film.
Elisabeth Vogler (Liv Ullman) is an accomplished stage actress who,
in the middle of performing Elektra, ceases to speak. Sister
Alma (Bibi Andersson), the young nurse assigned to care for her,
that there is nothing physically or even psychologically wrong with
Elisabeth - she has simply, consciously decided not to speak. Alma
(the name, not accidentally, is the Spanish word for soul) describes
her initial impressions of Elisabeth as gentle and childlike, but
with strict eyes. She takes Elisabeth to the attending physician's
remote summer house to facilitate her recuperation. At first, the
two seem ideally suited: a talkative, candid, and inexperienced nurse,
and a sophisticated, enigmatic, and silent patient. They take long
walks, bask in the sun, and read together. It is obvious that their
isolation has cultivated a sense of intimacy between them, albeit
one-sided. But it is a curious attachment. At first, Alma attempts
to fill the void of Elisabeth's silence. She talks incessantly about
her life, unburdening her soul to the seemingly attentive patient.
But soon, it is obvious that Elisabeth's interest is more than mere
politeness or voyeuristic curiosity. She is, in fact, "willing" her
identity - the facade she created as Elisabeth Vogler - to the mentally
weaker Alma. Elisabeth's struggle for absolute transference - the
proverbial battle for the soul - is a means of further divorcing
from the pain of her own existence. Persona is a provocative,
highly cerebral, and artistically complex depiction of human frailty,
cruelty, and identity.
uses minimal composition and extremely tight close-ups to illustrate
the theme of psychological deconstruction. Note the prevalent use
of single camera shots throughout the duration of a scene. The lack
of camera movement forces us to study the characters' faces. Persona,
after all, as the title suggests, is not about who the person actually
is, but the different identities, or facades, that the person projects.
Figuratively, Elisabeth Vogler, having played the role of celebrity,
wife, and mother, has decided to abandon her persona and walk off
the stage. A variation on the idea of duality provides an essential
ingredient to the plot development. The themes of experience, children,
and romantic relationships take on very different meanings for the
two women. Alma seems to covet what Elisabeth has, but she has deliberately
chosen other paths. Note the monologue that is shown twice: one showing
a close-up of Alma, and the other of Elisabeth. It is a scene about
regret, frustration, and denial. The effect illustrates how different,
and yet similar, these two women are... and how cruel and destructive
the human will can be.
© Acquarello 1998. All rights reserved.
DVD [R2] | DVD | VHS
| Home | Top