I usually felt pretty guilty since Iíve heard so much about director Ingmar Bergmanís stature and body of work and had yet to see a movie of his. So I finally got around to it and bought a new release of his classic film Persona, and after that my world changed forever. What an introduction to a director this film was, it left me completely overwhelmed, shocked, intrigued and amazed, I spent 2 fucking days trying to make sense of it all and got barely little sleep and as I watched for a second and third time, it finally managed to understand what a beautiful film this was.Thereís no way I can describe the plot, suffice to say that actress Elisabet Vogler (Liv Ullmann) has suffered a sort of nervous breakdown since she suddenly stopped talking. Nurse Alma (Bibi Andersson) is brought in to take care of her. And from then on itís all a cinematic montage of poetic images, all leading to a powerful conclusion.
There are immense layers within this film amongst its structure of images and dialogue, but on the basis of it all itís an examination of the subconscious as well as playing around with the conscious world. The images (photographed by the legendary Sven Nykvist) as well as the close-ups of the two women are as beautiful as they are disturbing and at times polarizing. Almaís monologue about her sexual orgy and heartbreaking demise is one of the strangest erotic scenes ever since there is never any sexual contact or nudity between the two actresses.
The two have a lot in common, and soon you realize that their own personalities have more in common than just their facial appearances, all summarized in that immensely powerful dreamlike sequence when Alma and Elisabet experience a brief encounter. But then the mysteries abound, do they have more in common than what we think? Are they lesbians? Are they two halves of a same personality? Can a personality of a human being be everything and nothing at the same time? Is this happening at all? No review can answer these questions; each viewer will come to his or her own opinion.
The acting is excellent; Bibi Andersson is brilliant and hard-hitting as Alma, while Liv Ullmann in her first true movie role finely underplays the near-comatose Elisabet to perfection. Bergmanís direction and writing is assured and superb, and his hallucinatory dreamlike atmosphere is in tune with the rest of the movie.In the end, this is a superb and fucking amazing masterpiece, and has really motivated me exploring the rest of Bergmanís body of work. This film is truly one of the most mystifying and most original films Iíve ever seen to date and one of the most psychological and mind-bending Iíve ever experienced. Never mind flicks like The Others, Angel Heart or The Sixth Sense; those films only give you a psychological prick-tease compared to this classic. This film is the quintessential mind-fuck. 5-5