Persona

Persona ★★★★★

Persona is one of the most singular experiences cinema has to offer. Ingmar Bergman made many great films, but while you can see thematic parallels between some of them and this one, Persona is on a whole different level. This is an inexhaustible film. There's so much here that's immediately gripping and so much that's inexplicable and left to be explored.

I rewatched this the day after watching 3 Women. I loved that film and the experience of watching them back to back proved interesting. I've never paid much attention to the head doctor who sends Elizabet and Alma to the summer house. However, in light of Altman's strong maternal figure who lurks painting in the background of 3 Women, I found myself wondering if the doctor plays a similar role. Both characters function as some kind mother/goddess figure who guides the two split parts of the woman into conflict and resolution.

The two films also had me reflecting on how different masculine duality is from feminine. When I think of masculine duality in film I think of characters like Shelock Holmes and Moriarty, Indy and Belloq, or even Batman and the Joker. Masculine duality presents the shadow self as a destructive force. It's also always apparent in those examples who the real, dominant self is.

Feminine duality, at least as its presented in these films and many others, is far more complex. For one, I don't think it's entirely clear which of the two characters is the shadow in Persona. Is it Alma who appears as a nurse to offer healing to Elizabet? Or is it Elizabet who threatens to drain the life from Alma in vampyric fashion? I think a strong case could be made for both. The tension between shadow and true self in feminine duality is also framed in intimate terms - a sharp contrast to the external nature of how masculine duality works itself out in fiction. The tension in Persona comes almost entirely through conversation. In masculine duality the stakes are immediately clear and the lines are boldly drawn. In feminine duality the stakes are always shifting and the lines blur and change the second you notice them.

There are countless other ways to view this film. I suspect its ideas will still be being teased out for as long as people keep watching movies

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