Like his previous films Winter Light and The Silence, Ingmar Bergman’s haunting—if sometimes pretentiously abstruse—film Persona superficially appears to reject the idea that God has a hand in human affairs. At this point in his career, the great Swedish director seems to be inclining instead toward an atheistic worldview in which his characters attempt to make sense of the harshness of reality, including death, mental illness, and the presence of evil. But Persona, a story of identity crisis from the perspectives of two women whose paths in life are temporarily intertwined, is much more than an exercise in such nihilistic futility.
Swedish cinema is sometimes considered synonymous with the films of Ingmar Bergman, but even a genius must have his influences. In the beginning, there was Victor Sjöström’s eerie landmark silent film The Phantom Carriage, which elevated early horror to new heights of surrealistic complexity.