Persona, Blu-ray (1966/2014)

by | Mar 22, 2014 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

Persona, Blu-ray (1966/2014)

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Cast: Liv Ullmann, Bibi Andersson, Gunnar Björnstrand
Studio: Svensk Filmindustri/ Criterion Collection 701 [3/25/14]
Video: 1.37:1 black & white 1080p HD + 2 DVDs with same content
Audio: Swedish PCM mono
Subtitles: English
Extras: Visual essay on film’s prologue; New interviews with Ullmann and filmmaker Paul Schrader; Excerpts from archived interviews with Ullmann, Andersson, Bergman; On-set footage with commentary; Liv & Ingmar – 2012 feature-length documentary; Theatrical trailer; Illustrated booklet with excerpts from the book Bergman On Bergman and an interview with Andersson
Length: 83 min.
Rating: ***

This is supposed to be one of Bergman’s greatest filmic creations, full of profound psychological depth, and you may feel that way about it, but I found it hard to take and not near the height of his films such as The Seventh Seal or Wild Strawberries. The extras say he was heavily influenced by the French New Wave and used his own versions of some of their tricks in this one. Well, I’d much rather watch the French ones.

This is super-heavy, dark Scandinavian stuff, although expressed in some terrific visual imagery and with some fine acting from the two leads. Bergman wanted to be especially radical, and in a way he is. He also didn’t want to it widescreen. The opening is an expressionistic, totally abstract several minutes that looks like some of the avant-garde experimental films we made at Canyon Cinema when I was a filmmaker. Bergman even has some fake footage that looks like the projector stuck and the film burned thru and broke.

Ullmann plays an actress who has suddenly gone completely mute (she certainly didn’t have to learn any lines as Andersson did). Andersson plays a young nurse with a number of concerns, caring for the actress in a remote cottage on an island. The two woman have a strange emotional and spiritual transference, I guess. It’s supposed to be dreamlike but almost put me to sleep. One reviewer says Bergman’s point is that most of what we think we know about another person is what we ourselves project on them.  The black and white cinematography by Bergman’s Sven Nykvist is gorgeous as usual – the film would be even more annoying in color.  I had no interest in viewing most of the extras or reading the booklet’s excerpts, but now I might view the full-length documentary on the relationship of Bergman and Ullmann; it might be more interesting than the Persona, who knows?

—John Sunier

Related Reviews