Persona (1966)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Drama  |   Run Time - 81 min.  |   Countries - Sweden  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Michael Hastings

A watershed film in its economy, symbolism, and frank sexuality, Ingmar Bergman's Persona ranks as one of the director's most personal pieces, breaking from his earlier, more explicit work in favor of the abstract, intuitive style that he would continue to develop in such films as Hour of the Wolf (1968), Shame (1968), and Cries and Whispers (1973). Bergman started work on Persona after a long hospital stay, and he described the seemingly random images that begin the film as a "poem," a proclamation of his renewal as an artist. The opening sequence sets the tone for the film to come, in which the characters are at the mercy not just of fate and desire but of filmmaking itself. Later on, the film comes off its sprockets -- the celluloid literally breaks and melts on screen, before our eyes. At no other time in his career had Bergman seemed more trusting of his performers; he purges Persona of any narrative conventions but its two characters and their seaside setting. The final shot exposes the crew and equipment making the movie, a self-reflexive gesture, as in the later A Passion (1970), which suggests that not even filmmaking can completely dissect the mysteries of the human heart.