Blu-ray Review: Criterion Inducts Bergman’s ‘Persona’ Into Collection

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

Few films have ever been as dissected and analyze as Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona”, recently released on Criterion Blu-ray for the first time with new special features. It’s somewhat ironic that so many people have spent so much intellectual energy on a film that Bergman admits came to him at a point of low health almost in a dream. In fact, “Persona” somewhat becomes less interesting to me as it’s dissected, much like Lynch’s “Mulholland Dr.” or Malick’s “Tree of Life”. They are distinctly emotional, symbolic pieces and perhaps they should just be appreciated as such instead of such analysis of “what they mean.” However you choose to appreciate one of Bergman’s most influential films, you should do so with the Criterion edition from this day forward. Blu-ray rating: 4.5/5.0
Rating: 4.5/5.0

As for special features on this new edition, the two that are most powerful for me are the very informative video essay that purports to be on the prologue but really offers insight into where Bergman was in his career and how this film overall reflected his mental and emotional state, and the 2K digital restoration, which allows the film to really shine visually. One is reminded how much of a creative partner Sven Nyqvist was with Bergman, as both men proved the mesmerizing power of 1.37:1 and black & white in a time when film was expanding and turning to color. It’s hard to believe that “Persona” is almost fifty years old. One would never guess watching this new release of a timeless film.

Persona was released on Blu-ray on March 25, 2014
Persona was released on Blu-ray on March 25, 2014
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Criterion Collection

By the mid-sixties, Ingmar Bergman (The Seventh Seal) had already conjured many of the cinema’s most unforgettable images. But with the radical Persona, this supreme artist attained new levels of visual poetry. In the first of a series of legendary performances for Bergman, Liv Ullmann (Scenes from a Marriage) plays an actress who has inexplicably gone mute; an equally mesmerizing Bibi Andersson (Wild Strawberries) is the garrulous young nurse caring for her in a remote island cottage. While isolated together there, the women perform a mysterious spiritual and emotional transference that would prove to be one of cinema’s most influential ideas. Acted with astonishing nuance and shot in stark shadows and soft light by the great Sven Nykvist (Cries and Whispers), Persona is a penetrating, dreamlike work of profound psychological depth.

Special Features:
• New, 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• New visual essay on the film’s prologue by Ingmar Bergman scholar Peter Cowie
• New interviews with actor Liv Ullmann and filmmaker Paul Schrader
• Excerpted archival interviews with Bergman and actors Bibi Andersson and Ullmann
• On-set footage, with audio commentary by Bergman historian Birgitta Steene
• Liv & Ingmar, a 2012 feature documentary directed by Dheeraj Akolkar
• Trailer
• New English subtitle translation
• One Blu-ray and two DVDs, with all content available in both formats
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Thomas Elsaesser, an excerpted 1969 interview with Bergman, and an excerpted 1977 conversation with Andersson

“Persona” was released on Criterion Blu-ray and DVD on March 25, 2014. Contributor Brian Tallerico


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