What’s so queer about this Swedish auteur? More, perhaps, than one might expect. “The first important lesbian images in cinema for me were: Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson in Ingmar Bergman’s Persona,” the writer Sarah Schulman recently explained, “particularly the moment where their intensity of feeling burned up the celluloid.” One of the filmmaker’s most enigmatic works, Persona is the story of an actress who was suddenly fallen mute, and retreats to the countryside with her nurse to convalesce. But this bucolic interlude exacts a psychological toll on the two women, especially the garrulous caretaker, who grows increasingly intimate with, and ultimately resentful of, her silent charge. Aided by Sven Nykvist’s elegant camerawork and artful punctuations in the sound design, an air of violent eroticism prevails throughout. Persona, one of the great movies about the precarious nature of identity, shudders with neurotic life.
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