Persona ★★★★★

This is my second viewing within a week, and the only thing I'm more sure of after watching Persona a second time is just how inadequate two viewings are to grasp what Bergman is doing in this film. Honestly, I'm not sure 200 viewings would cut it. The film is that deep.

I'm not going to bother to speculate about what's real and what's not in the film. As far as I'm concerned you could make valid arguments for both everything or nothing being a hallucination. Instead, I thought I'd list a few of the things that stood out to me this time around.

-I was very much struck by how shallow Alma appears at the beginning of the film. That's something I think is hard to notice the first time around since you haven't yet seen her in her raw and vulnerable state

-Alma's comment in an early scene about how wonderful art is, especially when we're suffering, could be seen as central to the film. Persona might be Bergman's raging against that platitude. The way Alma says it, it comes across as superficially deep. The film seems to want to suggest that that's simultaneously giving art too much and too little credit - one of many contradictions throughout Persona.

-Along those lines, it's telling to note that Elizabet seems repulsed by art because of its falseness and unable to cope with unfiltered reality. Compare her reactions to when Alma turns on the radio play and when she watches the Vietnam news broadcast. That paradoxical reaction to art and life seems to be central to Bergman's thesis.

-The image in the prologue of the brick wall fading to the forest is fascinating to me. They're contradicting images - one open, one closed. Bergman overlays them and forces us to accept the paradox.

-I was struck by how much ambiguous dialogue there is in the movie. I don't mean dialogue where we're unsure what it means - though there's plenty of that - but times where we're unsure who said a given line. When Elizabet first speaks to Alma her back is turned to us, meaning it may not really be her speaking, but Alma's imagination of her speaking. This happens many times

-Just in case you aren't already drowning in the myriad of possible interpretations, Bergman throws in at the very end the possibility that Elizabet is a vampire. It's really a great touch, even if I'm not sure what it means.

-Dripping water occurs again and again in the film. I don't know what that means, but I'm fascinated by it

-The two actresses are shot phenomenally. At times they could look more different. At other terms, you have to do a double take to figure out who is who. The film is a cinematography masterpiece

Ben liked this review