We gave it an A-
In Persona, the brilliant jewel of the collection, Ingmar Bergman blurs the line between dream and reality to probe the psyches of two troubled women: an actress suddenly stricken mute (Liv Ullmann) and the emotionally needy nurse (Bibi Andersson) assigned to care for her. Deconstructing the two-person drama at a house on a barren beach, Bergman experiments with a nonlinear, stream-of-consciousness narrative that takes at least two viewings to fully decode. Around the third time you recognize it as one of the master’s greatest works. Only slightly less superb is the set’s relatively unsung trilogy, including Hour of the Wolf, about an artist (Max von Sydow) slowly sacrificing his sanity to a parade of inner demons; Shame, about a married couple (Ullmann, von Sydow) who lose their civilized veneer as they endure a raging civil war; and The Passion of Anna, about a recluse (von Sydow) whose fragile existence is shattered when he meets an equally unbalanced widow (Ullmann). All set against the beautifully stark backdrop of Bergman’s beloved Faro Island, the films are of a piece: small ensemble works that detail the disintegration of individuals who cannot cope with the psychological stresses of the postmodern age. The collection’s odd film out is The Serpent’s Egg, a noble but finally failed effort to plumb the malaise of 1920s Berlin. But what this film has in common with the others is the luminous presence of Ullmann, arguably the ultimate Bergman actress. EXTRAS Recent interviews with Bergman, Ullmann, and Andersson top the menu; commentaries by Bergman biographer Marc Gervais are alternately pedantic and patronizing.