AI Creates Another Persona

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Tue, 09/26/2023 - 10:10 -- Nick Dager

This image is a reinterpretation of Sven Nykvist's iconic photograph from Persona. © AB Svensk FilmindustriWhat happens to a film when an actor's face is changed? Over the past year, everyone in the film world has started talking about artificial intelligence. Will the technology enable different and better films, or will it just make everyone unemployed? And how does AI affect how directors and actors create their art? In collaboration with SF Studios, Gothenburg Film Studios and The Ingmar Bergman Foundation, Göteborg Film Festival is producing an AI-generated version of Persona, featuring Alma Pöysti in Liv Ullmann's role as Elisabet Vogler.

This cinematic experiment will be screened exclusively once at the Göteborg Film Festival 2024 in the presence of Liv Ullmann and Alma Pöysti. The screening will be followed by a discussion on acting and technology. The festival is being held January 26 to February 4.

Ingmar Bergman's Persona is the most celebrated film in Swedish film history and one of the most discussed and influential films in the world. It tells the story of nurse Alma (Bibi Andersson) who cares for actress Elisabet Vogler (Liv Ullmann) in a remote summer house by the sea.

Ingmar Bergman described Persona as a sonata for two instruments. The Göteborg Film Festival is adding a third."The discussion about acting, masks, and authenticity that has made Persona a classic has been urgently reactivated by technological advancements,” says Jonas Holmberg, artistic director, Göteborg Film Festival. “Not least, the [actors] strike in Hollywood has sparked an important debate on production possibilities and labor-market threats in relation to AI. We want to add an artistic and existential dimension to the discussion, and we want to do it by engaging with Ingmar Bergman's incomparable film. Another Persona will be a uniquely thought-provoking and quite unsettling cinematic experience."

"As administers of Bergman's artistry, we at The Ingmar Bergman Foundation and SF Studios think that Another Persona is a brilliant project. 'Every intonation is a lie, every gesture a forgery,' it is said in Bergman's 1966 film. This becomes even more true now! In a time when we outsource ourselves to machines and at the same time seek our authentic selves," says Jan Holmberg, CEO, The Ingmar Bergman Foundation.

Alma Pöysti is known, among other things, for her leading roles in the Tove Jansson biopic Tove and Aki Kaurismäki's Fallen Leaves. During the Göteborg Film Festival 2023, she was awarded the Dragon Award for Best Acting for her role in Four Little Adults.

Pöysti said, "With curiosity and trepidation, I embark on this incredibly insane experiment (typical Göteborg Film Festival). The idea behind Another Persona is fascinating from an actor-existential standpoint, with philosophical, technical, moral, and copyright dimensions. Bergman and Ullmann are idols, and Persona is a masterpiece. So, I approach the source material with great humility and respect. Venturing into the AI world is like setting out into unknown territory without a map. I look forward to the adventure."

Ingmar Bergman described Persona as a sonata for two instruments. The Göteborg Film Festival is adding a third.