Persona

Rerun of Swedish master's harrowing '60s classic

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OPENED JANUARY 31, CERT 15, 81 MINS

After a sell-out run at the NFT, Bergman’s 1966 masterpiece heads out for a full UK tour. Experimental films date quickly, but Persona is so harrowing that it’s impossible to dismiss with a shrug those moments when the film jumps the sprockets or catches fire. Such Dadaist distancing echoes the theme. What is the artist to do in the face of the real world’s atrocities? Two women, one a famous actress (Liv Ullmann) who has withdrawn into silence, the other her nurse (Bibi Andersson)?it could be a scenario by Beckett. It’s just the two of them, and we watch in horror as the chatty, cheerful nurse is forced into ever deeper levels of destructive self-awareness by her silent confessor. The betrayal by letter of her intimate sexual confidences drives her into cruel reprisal, and her precarious identity begins to blur into that of her patient.

Both actresses are superb, but Andersson’s nurse is not the sort of turn you would give lightly. It’s one of the best performances on screen ever.

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