Given some of Persona’s stylistic devices were French new wave-inspired, it’s fitting that Claude Chabrol should return the favour in this noirish study of identity, sanity and ambiguity, which he later claimed was “the first film which I made exactly as I wished”. Echoes of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) also reverberate through bisexual bourgeois Stéphane Audran’s grooming of pavement artist Jacqueline Sassard. But it’s hard to miss the reference to Liv Ullmann stroking Bibi Andersson’s hair as Sassard stands behind Audran while she applies lip gloss in the mirror.
Directors Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell
Although it numbers works by Jean Cocteau, Kenneth Anger, Francis Bacon, Jorge Luis Borges, Joseph Losey and John Boorman among its influences, Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg’s account of “the perverted love affair between homo sapiens and lady violence” owes much to Persona, as fugitive gangster Chas Devlin (James Fox) begins to lose his grip on his identity while falling under the spell of rock star, Turner (Mick Jagger).
At one point, Chas and Turner’s faces dissolve into a composite that complements an image of Turner’s Powis Square housemate, Pherber (Anita Pallenberg, who had dated Jagger’s Rolling Stones bandmates Brian Jones and Keith Richards). No wonder the picture’s tagline was “Vice and Versa”.
3 Women (1977)
Director Robert Altman
In his Observer review of Robert Altman’s personal and elusive snapshot of a nation succumbing to consumerist banality, Philip French posed a question that applies equally to Persona: “Is the film a dream or a series of dreams? Are the interdependent women a single person?”
Altman insists he got the idea during a disturbed night while his wife was seriously ill in hospital (“All complete. The story, the casting, everything.”). But the influence of Bergman is evident as the delusional Shelley Duvall chatters as compulsively as Andersson, while her face melds with Sissy Spacek’s in the same way that Andersson’s does with Ullmann (who, like Spacek secretly makes notes on her companion’s behaviour). Even feckless husband Robert Fortier finds it as hard to recognise his wife as Gunnar Björnstrand does during his brief visit to the coast.
Stardust Memories (1980)
Director Woody Allen
Woody Allen considers Persona a work of screen poetry and its influence can be felt in Interiors (1978) and Another Woman (1988), with Mia Farrow’s overheard therapy sessions in the latter recalling Alma’s shocking confessional monologue (which was also photographed by Sven Nykvist).
Typically, he lampooned Persona during the wonderful ‘wheat’ exchange with Diane Keaton in Love and Death (1975). But Allen most strikingly referenced the picture in Stardust Memories, as the blown-up photograph of the Vietcong officer echoes Bergman’s use of the images of a self-immolating monk and the Warsaw ghetto, while the harsh Alma-like close-ups employed for Charlotte Rampling’s jump-cut asylum speech give her nowhere to hide her emotional fragility.
Mulholland Dr. (2001)
Director David Lynch
In her Sight & Sound article on Persona, Susan Sontag said it shared with The Silence a thematic interest in “the scandal of the erotic; the polarities of violence and powerlessness; reason and unreason; language and silence; the intelligible and the unintelligible”.
The same could be said of its relationship to David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr., as the shifting dynamic between Betty Elms/Diane Selwyn (Naomi Watts) and Rita/Camilla Rhodes (Laura Harring) closely resembles that of Alma and Elisabet. Lynch mixes and matches the characteristics, with Betty being an actor like Elisabet and stricken with psychosexual guilt like Alma. But nothing in a “dream place” is ever what it seems (particularly once illusions have been shattered) and, therein, lies the elusive fascination of each film.