Persona

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Persona (1966), a film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, portrays a nurse, Sister Alma, charged with the care of a stage actress, Elisabet Vogler, who falls mute. Aside from an appearance by a doctor in the first scene and Elisabet's husband at the end, every line of the film is spoken by Sister Alma.

Dialogue[edit]

Presented in sequential order
Alma: I don't know what to say, Doctor. First her face looks soft, almost childish. Then you see her eyes... She's got such a severe look, I think.

Alma: I'm interested in film and theatre, but I go so seldom. I have enormous admiration for artists. I think art has an enormous importance in life. Especially for people who are in difficulties of some kind.

Alma: It's strange. You go around almost any old how. Do almost any old thing. I'll marry Karl-Henrik and we'll have a few children that I'll raise. All that is decided. it's inside of me. It's nothing to ponder over. It's a huge feeling of security. Then I have a job that I like and am happy with. That's good too. But in another way. But it's good... good. It's good.

Alma: Making changes... The worst thing with me is I'm so lazy. And then I get a bad conscience. Karl-henrik scolds me for lacking ambition. He says I go around like a sleepwalker. I think that's unfair. I was best in my group for the exams. But he probably means something else... You know what I sometimes think of? At the hospital where I did my exam, there's a home for old nurses. Ones that have always been nurses, lived for their work. Always in uniform. They live in their small rooms. Imagine devoting your whole life to something. I mean, believing in something. Believing that one's life has a purpose. I like things like that. Sticking to one thing doggedly, irrespective. I think one ought to. Mean something to other people. Don't you think so as well? I know it sounds childish, but I believe in it. Goodness, it's raining a lot!

Alma: Many people have told me that I'm a good listener. Funny, huh? No one's ever bothered to listen to me. Like you are now. You're listening. I think you're the first person who's listened to me. It can't be interesting at all. You could read a good book instead.

Alma: Can you understand? What happens to everything you believe in?

Alma: Of what interest can my life be to you? One should be like you. You know what I thought when I saw your film that night? When I came home I saw myself in the mirror and thought: we're alike. Don't misunderstand me, you're much prettier, but we are alike in a way. I think I could turn myself into you. If I made a real effort. I mean inside. You could turn yourself into me just like that. Although your soul would much be too big. It would stick out everywhere!

Elisabet's letter: My dear: I'd always like to live like this. This silence, living cut off — this feeling how the battered soul finally begins to straighten out. Alma's spoiling me in the most moving manner. I think, by the way, that she's enjoying herself and is quite taken with me — even smitten in an unconscious and delightful way. It's fun studying her. Sometimes she cries over past sins — an episodic orgy with a totally strange boy followed by an abortion. She complains that her notions of life don't accord with her actions.

Alma: I knew you'd refuse. You can't know how I feel. I always thought great artists felt great compassion for other people. That they created from a sense of great sympathy and a need to help. That was stupid of me. You've used me. Now that you don't need me you just throw me away. Yes, I hear very well how it sounds, how false it sounds! You've used me, now you're discarding me. Every word! And then these glasses!

Alma: You were really scared now, huh? For a second you were genuinely scared, not so? A genuine fear of death, huh? Alma's gone crazy, you thought. What kind of person are you, really? Or do you think like this: I'll remember that face. That tone of voice, that expression. I'll give you something you won't forget! You're laughing, are you? It's not so simple for me. Not so funny, either.

Alma: What am I doing? Elisabet! Elisabet, forgive me. I behaved like an idiot, don't know what got into me. I'm here to help you. Then there was that awful letter. I was so disappointed. You asked me to talk about myself. It was nice, you looked so understanding, I'd drunk a lot... It was so nice to talk about it all. I was also flattered that a great actress cared to listen to me. Somehow I thought it would be nice if it was of some use to you. But it's terrible, isn't it? Sheer exhibitionism. Elisabet, I want you to forgive me. I like you so much, you mean so much to me. I've learned so much from you, I don't want to part as enemies. You don't want to forgive me. You're too proud! You won't lower yourself because you don't need to!

Alma: When you sleep your face is slack. Your mouth is swollen and ugly. You have a nasty wrinkle on your forehead. You smell of sleep and tears. I can see the pulse on your throat. You have a scar you normally cover with makeup there.

Mr. Vogler: You love someone, or more correctly, say you love someone, it nets you something... tangible. As tangible as words can be, I guess.
Alma: Mr. Vogler, I'm not your wife.
Mr. Vogler: You are also loved. You build a little fellowship, it generates security, you see the possibility of enduring, not so? Heh. How can I say everything I've thought without losing my way and boring you?
Alma: Mr. Vogler, I'm not your wife.
Mr. Vogler: Don't be so anxious, my darling. We have one another. We have faith, know each other's thoughts. We love one another. It's true, isn't it? It's the effort that's most important, not what we achieve. Isn't it? To see each other as children. Tormented and helpless lonely children. Elisabet!

Alma: What are you hiding under your hand? Let me see. It's the photo of your little boy. The one you tore up. We must talk about it. Tell me about it, Elisabet. Then I will. It was one night at a party, isn't that right? It got late and quite rowdy. Towards morning someone in the group said: "Elisabet, you virtually have it all in your armoury as woman and artist. But you lack motherliness." You laughed because you thought it sounded silly. But after a while you noticed you thought about what he'd said. You became more and more worried. You let your husband impregnate you. You wanted to be a mother. When you realized it was definite, you became frightened. Frightened of responsibility, of being tied down, of leaving the theatre. frightened of your body swelling up. But you played the role. The role of a happy, young, expectant mother. Everyone said, "Isn't she beautiful? She's never been so beautiful." Meanwhile you tried to abort the foetus several times. But you failed. When you saw it was irreversible... you started to hate the baby. And you wished it would be stillborn. You wished the baby would be dead. You wished for a dead baby. The delivery was difficult and long. You were in agony for days. Finally the baby was delivered with forceps. You looked with disgust and terror at your squealing baby and whispered Can't you die soon? Can't you die?

Alma: I'm not like you. I don't feel like you. I'm Sister Alma, I'm just here to help you. I'm not Elisabet Vogler. You are Elisabet Vogler.

Alma: Repeat after me. Nothing. Nothing.
Elisabet (whispering): Nothing.
Alma: Good. That's how it should be.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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