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Cinema Talks > 2022 Season 17
Cinema Talk: Monday 20 June 2022
Meeting open for joining at 6:45 pm Beirut Time (GMT+3 or UCT+3)
Talk starts at 7:00 pm and until 8:30

Ingmar Bergman's PERSONA: A Battle with Realism
Akram Najjar (English)

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Profile of the Talk
Our first talk on cinema since we start on Zoom will attempt to show how Bergman's PESONA stands as a fortress against realism. Examples will be given of cinematic devices that inhibit the viewer from attempting to “interpret” the film or to view it as a representation of reality. The talk goes on to show how the film is built and how it jolts the viewer to keep remembering that he / she is watching the film as an object.

PERSONA is a milestone in Ingmar Bergman’s output. It remains one of the most loved/hated of his films. He considered it (along with Cries and Whispers), the furthest he could go in film.

PERSONA, like the works of Kafka, Hamlet and other complex works, has been subjected to a wide variety of interpretations. A small minority saw the film as Bergman’s inversion of “interpretation”. They saw it as an objectification of the film itself, inviting the viewer to look into the way this film was built, making it one of the foremost examples of “self-conscious” cinema. From another perspective, the film stands as a fortress against realism.

This talk will attempt to show how the film stands as a fortress against realism, giving example after example of cinematic devices that inhibit the viewer from attempting to “interpret” the film or to view it as a representation of reality. The talk goes on to show how the film is built and how it jolts the viewer to keep remembering that he / she is watching the film as an object.

To enjoy the talk, it is critical to view the film, if not twice, then at least once. This is a YouTube link that features the film with subtitles:

(You may have to configure YouTube to display subtitles).

Another clip you might enjoy before the talk is this full movie showing subtitles but narrated with a voice-over Dimitrios Axiotis

Title: Persona
Duration: 1 hour and 23 min
Language: Swedish (English Slides)
Director: Igmar Bergman (Sweden 1966)
Stars: Liv Ullman and Bibi Anderson


Persona is a 1966 Swedish psychological drama film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. Persona’s story revolves around a young nurse named Alma (Andersson) and her patient, a well-known stage actress named Elisabet Vogler (Ullmann), who has suddenly ceased to speak. The two move to a cottage, where Alma cares for and talks to Elisabet about intimate secrets, and begins having trouble distinguishing herself from Elisabet.

Bergman wrote the film with Ullmann and Andersson in mind for the lead parts, and some idea of exploring their identities, and shot the film in Stockholm and Fårö (the island he owns). Drawing on deep psychological elements, Persona has been the subject of a vast amount of analysis, interpretation and debate. Persona deals with themes of duality, insanity, and personal identity, as has been interpreted as a statement of Jungian theory of persona, cinema, vampire mythology, lesbianism, or motherhood and abortion. The experimental nature of its prologue and storytelling has also drawn comment.

Over and above the delicate psychological handling of the two characters, from a cinematographic point of view, the film is a masterpiece. Bergman introduces a variety of innovative devices and techniques (playing the same scene twice from different angles, confusing faces in various shots, flashing slides at the beginning of the film).

On its release, the film was subject to cuts because of its controversial subject matter but received positive reviews, with Swedish media using the term Personakult to describe its enthusiastic followers. It won the award for Best Film at the 4th Guldbagge Awards and was Sweden's entry for consideration for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Many critics consider it one of the greatest films ever made, and it influenced many later directors, such as Robert Altman and David Lynch.
Click Here for the full move on YouTube (with English subtitles)
Click Here for an article by Roger Ebert
Click Here for an article in the New York Times
Click Here for an article in the Globe and Mail
Click Here for an article in Aesthetics of the Mind
Click Here for an article in Ingmar Bergman’s own site


Ingmar Bergman (from IMDB)
Ernst Ingmar Bergman was born July fourteenth, 1918, the son of a priest. The film and T.V. series, The Best Intentions (1992) is biographical and shows the early marriage of his parents. The film 'Söndagsbarn' depicts a bicycle journey with his father. In the miniseries Private Confessions (1996) is the trilogy closed. Here, as in 'Den Goda Viljan' Pernilla August play his mother. Note that all three movies are not always full true biographical stories. He began his career early with a puppet theatre which he, his sister and their friends played with. But he was the manager. Strictly professional he begun writing in 1941.

He had written a play called 'Kaspers död' (A.K.A. 'Kaspers Death') which was produced the same year. It became his entrance into the movie business as Stina Bergman (not a close relative), from the company S.F. (Swedish Filmindustry), had seen the play and thought that there must be some dramatic talent in young Ingmar. His first job was to save other more famous writers' poor scripts. Under one of that script-saving works he remembered that he had written a novel about his last year as a student. He took the novel, did the save-poor-script job first, then wrote a screenplay on his own novel. When he went back to S.F., he delivered two scripts rather than one. The script was Torment (1944) and was the fist Bergman screenplay that was put into film (by Alf Sjöberg).

It was also in that movie Bergman did his first professional film-director job. Because Alf Sjöberg was busy, Bergman got the order to shoot the last sequence of the film. Ingmar Bergman is the father of Daniel Bergman, director, and Mats Bergman, actor at the Swedish Royal Dramatic Theater. Ingmar Bergman was also C.E.O. of the same theatre between 1963-1966, where he hired almost every professional actor in Sweden. In 1976 he had a famous tax problem. Bergman had trusted other people to advise him on his finances, but it turned out to be very bad advice. Bergman had to leave the country immediately, and so went to Germany. A few years later he returned to Sweden and made his last film Fanny and Alexander (1982) (A.K.A. 'Fanny and Alexander'). In later life he retired from movie directing, but still wrote scripts for film and T.V. and directed plays at the Swedish Royal Dramatic Theatre for many years. He died peacefully in his sleep on July 30, 2007.

Akram Najjar is a graduate of AUB in Physics and Mathematics (1966). By 1969, he completed a degree in Electronic Engineering in University of Hertfordshire, UK. His professional life was spent in Information Technology and organizational management. He spent a lot of time on reengineering business and public sector processes.

Akram got introduced to Classical Music by his mother when he was sick for 6 months. She found that the only way to keep him busy was to bring a record player to his bed side while reading to him biographies of great composers. This love of music never left him, although he never took serious music lessons. Since that time, Akram was very involved in learning about music, as much as a non-musician can.
When Akram was 16, he was invited by a cousin to watch La Notte by Antonioni. Having been immersed in existentialism and related philosophies, Akram was stunned that cinema could handle philosophical issues. He became a cinephile since then.

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