Persona After and Before

Video essays are the ideal format to trace visual echoes throughout film history. Visual motifs that recur in very different films and periods illustrate the longevity of certain themes and the influences to which filmmakers were exposed.


This thoughtfully compiled video essay by Steven Benedict is a case in point. It takes an in-depth look at the influence of Ingmar Bergman’s Persona. Benedict shows how the iconic imagery of that masterpiece sent ripples through time: he finds visual references in films as diverse as Roman Polanski’s The Tenant and Michael Mann’s Heat. But since it’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards, Benedict also includes scenes from movies that seem to have presaged Persona. From Jean Cocteau’s Orphée to John Cassavetes’ Shadows: Bergman may have tapped into the vision of some illustrious predecessors.


The resulting video essay not only positions Persona in a cinematic tradition, but at the same time it throws light on Bergman’s modus operandi.