Persona (1966)

Brief Intro

Persona, directed by Ingmar Bergman, is a psychological drama that delves deep into identity, isolation, and the human psyche. The story revolves around a famous actress, Elisabet Vogler, who suddenly stops speaking, and her nurse, Alma, who takes care of her. As they retreat to a secluded summer house, their identities begin to blur and intertwine, leading to a powerful exploration of self and other.

Literary Devices Used in Persona

1. Symbolism

Movie SceneDevice Example
Opening sequence with various symbolic imagesThe film opens with a montage of symbolic images, including a spider, a sheep being slaughtered, and a nail being hammered into a hand, suggesting themes of entrapment, sacrifice, and pain.
Elisabet’s silenceElisabet’s refusal to speak symbolizes a deeper psychological withdrawal and the breakdown of her identity.

2. Metaphor

Movie SceneDevice Example
Alma and Elisabet’s face mergingThe scene where Alma and Elisabet’s faces blend into one serves as a metaphor for their merging identities and the fluidity of self.
The broken glassThe scene where Alma cuts herself on broken glass can be seen as a metaphor for the fragility of the human psyche and the potential for self-destruction.

3. Motif

Movie SceneDevice Example
Repeated shots of facesThe frequent close-ups of faces throughout the film emphasize the motif of identity and the human condition.
Silence and speechThe recurring contrast between Elisabet’s silence and Alma’s speech highlights the motif of communication and its complexities.

4. Juxtaposition

Movie SceneDevice Example
Contrasting monologuesThe film often places Alma’s expressive monologues against Elisabet’s silence, juxtaposing their different ways of coping with reality.
Light and shadowThe stark lighting contrasts, especially in the scenes in the summer house, juxtapose clarity and obscurity, reflecting the characters’ inner turmoil.

5. Allegory

Movie SceneDevice Example
Opening sequenceThe surreal opening sequence serves as an allegory for the subconscious mind and the various elements that constitute human identity.
Alma’s storytellingAlma’s recounting of her past experiences can be interpreted as an allegory for guilt, shame, and the search for self-understanding.

6. Foreshadowing

Movie SceneDevice Example
Elisabet’s initial reaction to AlmaElisabet’s intense gaze at Alma in the beginning foreshadows their later psychological entanglement.
The letter Alma findsThe letter Alma discovers, in which Elisabet writes about her, foreshadows the eventual breakdown of trust and the blurring of their identities.

7. Irony

Movie SceneDevice Example
Elisabet’s professionElisabet, an actress who uses her voice to convey emotions, ironically chooses silence in real life, highlighting the disconnect between her public persona and private self.
Alma’s controlAlma, who initially seems to have control over the silent Elisabet, gradually loses her own sense of identity and control, creating situational irony.

8. Paradox

Movie SceneDevice Example
The silence speaksElisabet’s silence paradoxically communicates more than words, revealing deep psychological truths.
Identity confusionThe paradox of Alma becoming Elisabet while trying to care for her highlights the fluidity and complexity of identity.

9. Imagery

Movie SceneDevice Example
Beach scenesThe serene yet stark beach scenes create powerful visual imagery that reflects the isolation and existential themes of the film.
Dream sequencesThe surreal and fragmented dream sequences are rich with disturbing and evocative imagery, illustrating the characters’ inner conflicts.

10. Stream of Consciousness

Movie SceneDevice Example
Alma’s monologuesAlma’s long, uninterrupted monologues are presented in a stream of consciousness style, revealing her innermost thoughts and feelings.
Elisabet’s silenceElisabet’s silence can be seen as a silent stream of consciousness, where her internal thoughts are implied rather than spoken.

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Character Studies

Elisabet Vogler

SymbolismElisabet’s silence symbolizes her existential crisis and retreat from societal roles.
IronyAs an actress, her silence is ironic, highlighting the dissonance between her public persona and inner self.


MetaphorAlma’s emotional unraveling serves as a metaphor for the fragility of identity and the human psyche.
Stream of ConsciousnessHer monologues reveal her internal struggles and evolving identity through a stream of consciousness.

Character Dynamics

JuxtapositionThe film juxtaposes Alma’s loquacity with Elisabet’s silence, emphasizing their contrasting coping mechanisms.
AllegoryTheir relationship serves as an allegory for the exploration of self and other, merging and distinguishing their identities.

Thematic Analysis


SymbolismThe merging faces symbolize the fluidity and confusion of individual identities.
MetaphorThe broken glass represents the fractured and fragile nature of personal identity.


ImageryThe isolated beach house setting visually underscores the theme of isolation.
ParadoxElisabet’s silence isolates her, yet it also creates a paradoxical intimacy with Alma.


MotifThe recurring motif of silence versus speech highlights the complexities and failures of communication.
IronyThe irony of an actress choosing silence underscores the limitations and power of verbal expression.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
SymbolismClose-up shotsClose-ups of faces emphasize the symbolic importance of identity and expression.
ImageryStark lightingThe use of stark lighting enhances the visual imagery, reflecting inner turmoil and clarity.
MetaphorSound designThe eerie, minimalist sound design mirrors the metaphoric psychological landscapes.

Key Scene Analysis

Scene Selection: Persona Opening Sequence

Scene Breakdown:

  • Literary and Cinematic Techniques: The opening montage is a collage of symbolic imagery and surreal sequences. It sets the tone for the film’s exploration of identity and psychological conflict. The juxtaposition of serene and disturbing images introduces the film’s themes and prepares the audience for the psychological journey.


Interactive Quiz

  1. What does Elisabet’s silence symbolize?
    • A. Fear
    • B. Existential crisis
    • C. Joy
    • D. Anger
  2. Which device is used when Alma’s and Elisabet’s faces blend into one?
  3. What is the significance of the broken glass in the film?
    • A. It represents danger
    • B. It symbolizes the fragility of the psyche
    • C. It is a random event
    • D. It shows Alma’s carelessness
  4. How does the film use light and shadow?
    • A. To create a cheerful atmosphere
    • B. To reflect inner turmoil and clarity
    • C. To confuse the audience
    • D. To highlight the setting
  5. What does the juxtaposition of speech and silence highlight?
    • A. The importance of dialogue
    • B. The complexities of communication
    • C. The irrelevance of words
    • D. The beauty of silence