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Persona
cast: Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullmann, Margartha Krook, Gunnar Björnstrand and Jörgen Lindström

director: Ingmar Bergman

79 minutes (15) 1967 widescreen ratio 16:9
Tartan DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 10/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
Elisabet Vogler (Liv Ullmann) has fallen silent on stage. She is put into the care of Nurse Alma (Bibi Andersson), who tries to get to the bottom of Elisabet's wilful silence. Alma takes Elisabet to a lonely cottage by the seaside. As the days pass, and Elisabet remains silent, Alma finds herself less and less sure of her own identity.
   The inspiration for Persona came to Bergman in a dream, and it's certainly true that the film has a dreamlike feel to it. It's full of imagery that is sometimes hard to explicate, but has a powerful effect nonetheless. Persona is a virtual two-hander (the three other credited actors all have small roles) and Bergman makes considerable demands on his two lead actresses, often filming them in large close-up. With very little dialogue, Ullmann has to rely on her face and body language alone. In contrast, Andersson talks all the time: the scene where she talks about her seduction on a beach is one of the cinema's great monologues. Both actresses are at their best. Towards the end, Bergman superimposes one's face on the other's, as their personalities merge - a probable influence on Roeg and Cammell's Performance and certainly parodied by Woody Allen in Love And Death. The other standout is Sven Nykvist's pin-sharp black and white photography.
   Persona marks Bergman's most extensive use of avant-garde film techniques. The film begins with the projector starting up and the leader counting down, followed by a short, surreal prologue. At one particularly intense point, the film 'tears and burns' in the projector (an effect replicated at the end of Two-Lane Blacktop). Towards the end, the camera crew can be seen. On the film's original release, Bergman insisted that film stills be published with sprocket holes on display. By means of these devices, Bergman reminds the viewers that they are watching a film, but the film is such that we are drawn in nonetheless. Compelling, harrowing and draining, it's a film that stays with you a long time. A masterpiece.
   Tartan is advertising this as an "uncut" version. What this means is that some footage (a nearly-subliminal shot of an erect penis, during the prologue) that had been censored in Sweden in 1967 has recently come to light and been reinstated. The subtitles have also been newly translated. The DVD is in the original Academy ratio (4:3) with mono sound. Disc extras include the US theatrical trailer, filmographies, stills gallery, new-to-old subtitle comparison, and film notes by Philip Strick.
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