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Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullmann, Margareta Krook, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Jörgen Lindström

Persona is difficult to characterize in simple terms, but it may be helpful to describe this complex film as being an exploration of identity that combines elements of drama, visual poetry, and modern... read more read more... psychology. The central story revolves around a young nurse named Alma (Bibi Andersson) and her patient, a well-known actress named Elisabet Vogler (Liv Ullmann). Elisabet has stopped speaking, and the attending psychiatrist treats the actress by sending her to an isolated seaside cottage under Alma's care. There the nurse, who must do all the talking for both women, becomes a little enamored of the actress. One evening Alma tells Elisabet about some exhilarating sexual experiences she once had and their unpleasant aftermath. Soon after sharing this confidence, the nurse reads a letter Elisabet has written and is shocked to learn that the actress thinks of her as an amusing study. The relationship between the women becomes tense, and they wound each other. Then Alma has a long dream in which her identity merges with that of Elisabet, but when the nurse awakes, both women have apparently come to at least temporary terms with their psychological problems. ~ Rovi

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24,344 ratings

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39 critics

DVD Release Date: March 16, 2004

Stats: 1,610 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (1,610)


  • July 30, 2007
    Ingmar Bergman, 1918-2007
  • February 9, 2013
    A nurse takes care of an actress who has decided to stop talking, and after confessing her guilty secrets to the silent woman she finds her own persona starting to blur into the other woman's. A strange and mysterious psychoanalytical horror film; Ingmar Bergman paints the self a... read mores a very scary place you wouldn't want to visit.
  • November 2, 2012
    An interesting look into mental health that twists and turns around the main question of 'who is who' and 'what makes me'. Brilliant performances from both stars.
  • July 14, 2012
    A troubled nurse treats a successful actress who has stopped speaking.
    Ingmar Bergman doesn't shy away from the big issues. Persona's characters encounter the existence/relevance of God, fear of death, motherhood, the impossibility of human connection, and the struggles artists ... read moremust undergo in order to maintain a sense of selfhood despite their profession's pressures. And in most film and literature, it's usually men who undertake these questions, but 90% of Persona depicts two women coming to terms with such grand, philosophical issues, which is ground-breaking even though it shouldn't be. Most of the film is profound without being avant garde for avant garde's sake with several notable exceptions like the very beginning and parts of the denouement, and thus, most of the film is accessible and thought-provoking. I can't say that there is anything revolutionary or that the film comes to a unique conclusion about the grand questions it encounters, but the very fact that Bergman explores the nature of being raises film to a stature enjoyed by few other art forms.
    Overall, Bergman is one of serious intellectual film's masters, more accessible than Godard and more interesting than Fellini, and Persona is one of his masterpieces.
  • June 9, 2012
    Surrealist and intense, Ingmar Bergman's Persona, it's an unique masterpiece.
  • fb619846742
    December 27, 2011
    fb619846742
    An intense, well-constructed look on insanity, denial, and femininity at a cabin along a beach, where a nurse (Bibi Andersson) and recently near-catatonic patient (Live Ullmann) struggle to control their emotions. In terms of Bergman films, I feel as though both "Wild Strawberrie... read mores" and "The Seventh Seal" are better overall films, but that is not to slight this particular film, which is a fascinating pseudo-nightmare that is clearly under the control of a master film-maker. It is at times too slow and too talky at times, but for the most part the dialogue is sharp and the story unfolds both smoothly and surprisingly. Both Andersson and Ullman are phenomenal, and Bergman captures enough wide-eyed stares and creepy poses to last three to four films, which leaves the viewer in admiration of this unabashed gem. Not quite perfect, as said, but still an outstanding picture worthy of a view.
  • fb733768972
    November 4, 2011
    fb733768972
    One after another, this film provides a series of misunderstood question marks. Critics around the world have come up with hundreds of meanings for this film, and like all of them, I have my own thoughts. Persona is about a woman who is looking after an actress, turned non-speaki... read moreng individual. Eventually, she takes her away to a beach where she spills her deepest, darkest, and dirtiest secrets. Seeing as she is non-responsive, she believes she will keep these sexually controversial memories to herself. Things begin to get confusing as she falls in love with her patient. An awkwardly unheard of romance begins, and the film spirals into jumbled, yet amazing screen transitions and designs. "Persona" will definitely mess with your mind in more ways than one, but overall, even though non of your questions will ever fully be answered, this film is magnificent!
  • June 27, 2011
    Persona is a movie that leaves my feelings about it as segmented as many aspects of the story. The imagery and cinematography are worth a watch alone, but the dreamlike quality of the movie and the story itself put me out like a 6-pack of Benadryl. I love how Persona is a bluepri... read morent of sorts for Mulholland Drive and Fight Club but by the end of the movie I feel like I've been taking crazy pills for days and (not necessarily as a result) I have no idea what the hell's happening. I'm so thankful its not a long movie.
  • January 2, 2010
    Full review coming soon...
  • December 13, 2009
    For all its bizarreness; avant-garde feel and totally disorientating visual style at points, Persona actually tells rather a straight forward narrative and adopts a relatively simple visual approach. The camera work is sly and unspectacular, relying on the film itself and its var... read moreious bursts of disturbance to get across more of a 'bang' in the viewers mind and its story, with particular attention to the manner in which a relatively routine love story-come-psychoanalytical tale is told, is shot and unfolded using gentle camera-work and soft female voices to aid the visuals. Such a juxtaposition between visuals and timbre are the hallmarks of someone who knows what they're doing especially given the other visuals elements director Bergman includes.

    So about these other visual elements. The film begins with such a rapid display of images; it is difficult for the human eye to garner exactly what has just flashed up. This is after a slow and deliberate track into a person lying in a hospital, looking dead. The opening and closing montages which share the same powerful punch are two of the most eerie I've seen and rank up there with Elem Klimov's 1985 film Come and See and its closing display of images. But what does it all mean? Thrown in at the end of hands touching steamed up glass and odd looking creepy bugs crawling up same said panes is a projection unit playing rolls of developed film onto a white screen. I think to come up with a stone wall idea on what this means is futility of sorts. It could be Bergman reminding us that a film is still just a film and the following events (and events we've just seen) are obviously not real but the psychology behind the events to come (or just transpired) are real and do exist.

    This forces us to consider a complicated area: Sweden's (the nation that made the film) or indeed the world's attention to psychoanalysis and how much we are aware of such a thing. Although the film is produced several decades after the writings, it was made a mere six years after Hitchcock's Psycho which itself included such issues. Bergman's Persona covers the loneliness and isolation of a character named Alma (Andersson) who is a nurse and her gradual appreciation for hospital patient Elizabeth (Ullmann) after so many deviations and, quite possibly, regrets to do with and into the past of the life.

    But the film is a little more than a psychological study, even if by not very much. From my own viewpoint, no matter how wrong or how basic it may be or respectively sound, Alma suffers from this loneliness so much that to have the individual of Elizabeth around actually reminds her of what it's like to have human contact. Indeed, the contact is not a physical one and is not one as graphic as regressions into the past have us believe they used to be. One scene has Alma describe an orgy on a beach with males she did not know at the time and tells us of a friend who was also there but where is that friend now and what meaning does it have toward the larger scale of things? How did she become so 'unpopular' and secluded?

    There can be no denying that Alma comes across as a confident person and looking at the role she plays within the film, a nurse, you would think she needs attributes of charisma and a strong soul in order to combat any nastiness she might see on the job and to work up a strong communicative relationship with any doctor or patient she may come across. Incidentally, that scenario is played out in this film and makes me think that the film is somewhat purely a study of an individual loosing consciousness of what's around her but using the mute character of Elizabeth as a slow burning reason to tell the story. Either way, it's all very complicated but somewhat intriguing.

    Persona is the sort of film that gives you a headache but it's one of those 'nice' headaches you get when trying to work something out. Due to the sheer nature of the film and general inclusion of elements of the avant-garde, there cannot really be a stone wall conclusion to the film. Much like Luis Buñuel's early work, Persona is a mixed bag of interesting ideas and un-readable content ? an exercise in futility from any non-qualified film personnel to read into and get marginally close to a correct reading. The film has its characters write letters; read the letters; question one's sanity; show us cameras and film stock being played; have the fourth wall being broken; give us metaphorical montages that are too quick to absorb and then have the audacity to render whatever reading we may have into it all incorrect. But I guess that's all part of the genius of Bergman.

Critic Reviews


Michael Wilmington
July 23, 2013
Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

One of the screen's supreme works and perhaps Ingmar Bergman's finest film. Full Review

J. Hoberman
July 23, 2013
J. Hoberman, Village Voice

[A] masterpiece. Full Review

Richard Brody
July 23, 2013
Richard Brody, New Yorker

Bergman blends a theatrical subjectivity with a tactile visual intimacy, with his characters, the objects close at hand, and the superb coastal landscape. Full Review

July 23, 2013
TIME Magazine

Director Ingmar Bergman is modern cinema's most persistent observer of the human condition. Full Review

Dave Kehr
July 30, 2007
Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

Ingmar Bergman's best film, I suppose, though it's still fairly tedious and overloaded with avant-garde cliches. Full Review

Variety Staff
July 30, 2007
Variety Staff, Variety

Bergman has come up with probably one of his most masterful films technically and in conception, but also one of his most difficult ones. Full Review

Derek Adams
February 9, 2006
Derek Adams, Time Out

Bergman at his most brilliant. Full Review

Bosley Crowther
May 20, 2003
Bosley Crowther, New York Times

Miss Ullmann and Miss Andersson just about carry the film -- and exquisitely, too. Full Review

Roger Ebert
February 13, 2001
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

A film we return to over the years, for the beauty of its images and because we hope to understand its mysteries. Full Review

Scott Tobias
April 7, 2014
Scott Tobias, The Dissolve

[...]Persona marks a radical break for Bergman, an acknowledgment up front of the illusion and fundamental artifice of making movies. Full Review

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Persona Trivia


  • 1960s film about an actress who looses her voice and is taken care of by a nurse. They later switch identitys. Or do they?  Answer »
  • Which infamous real-life persona of terror influenced some of the themes in 'Pyscho'?  Answer »
  • Name the Swedish director of The Seventh Seal. He also did Wild Strawberries, Virgin Spring, and Persona.  Answer »
  • Which of these films is not based on a real life persona?  Answer »

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