Persona (1966)


At the beginning of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman’s deceptively minimalist character study, we see the twin elements of an arc lamp -- the kind that was once used to project moving pictures onto a theater screen -- come together in a blaze that floods our vision with light. The movie’s title refers to the psychological drama that we’re about to witness, but its roots derive from the Latin word referring to the masks worn on stage to present characters to an audience. In his book Mindscreen: Bergman, Godard, and First-Person Film, historian Bruce Kawin argues quite eloquently that Persona is a film in which light itself must find a mask to tell its story. All this goes above and beyond the simple pleasures offered by an intriguing and disturbing drama, well-told, which contains some of the most justly famous sequences in all of film. Nurse Alma is charged with tending to Elisabeth, a renowned actress who has stopped speaking as part of a conscious act of withdrawal from the world's misery. Finally, this is a picture which demands, and rewards, repeated viewing. What you get out of Persona is directly proportionate to what you put into it.
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Reviews by Bryant Frazer