By the mid-sixties, Ingmar Bergman had already conjured many of the cinema’s most unforgettable images. But he attained new levels of visual poetry with this radical, modernist masterpiece exploring the volatile relationship between an actress and her nurse in what is a mesmerisingly beautiful work of unforgettable, haunting mystery.
In the first of a series of legendary performances for Bergman, Liv Ullmann plays a stage actor who has inexplicably gone mute. An equally mesmerising Bibi Andersson plays a garrulous young nurse caring for her in a remote cottage on the island of Fårö. While isolated together there, the women perform a mysterious spiritual and emotional transference that would prove to be one of cinema’s most influential creations.
With a rich, resonant mix of related themes – the vampiric nature of art, the complex fragility of personality, the difficulty of communication – this is arguably Bergman’s most audacious and formally innovative work, multi-levelled yet utterly lucid. Acted with astonishing nuance and shot in stark contrast and soft light by the great cinematographer Sven Nykvist, Persona is a penetrating, dreamlike work of profound psychological depth.