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Persona review

One of the tentpole releases of the NFT's Ingmar Bergman season (touring the UK in February), Persona is the Swedish director's most difficult film. It's also one of his finest, rigorously examining such pet themes as the cannibalism of the artist, existential woe and the futility of human communication.

Bergman regulars Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson play, respectively, an actress who inexplicably stops talking and the young nurse who cares for her. Ullmann's character remains silent, communicating only through physical gestures, whereas Andersson's is all talk, pouring out her troubles onto her charge. It emerges that nurse and patient aren't so very different, their personalities even undergoing a freakish osmosis until the two women seem to merge in one extraordinary shot.

Every bit as intellectual as it sounds, Persona is made up of clinical compositions, austere acting and stark lighting courtesy of legendary lensman Sven Nykvist. Yet it's this very severity that gives the film its crisp beauty - and never more so than in this pristine new print, which contains a couple of seconds of nudity that were cut from the original release.

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