Persona

Persona ★★★★

Persona is an absolute puzzle. As I watched it I felt hypnotised, confused and enthralled. It is the story of a nurse named Alma who is looking after a young, celebrated actress named Elisabeth who one day stopped speaking. The nurse is advised to take Elisabeth to her isolated seaside home in an attempt to reach some kind of a breakthrough. Trapped in such close quarters, their personalities mesh and meld.

Elisabeth's character feels very afraid and concerned due to her past trauma. She prefers now to let things pass her by and not intervene, not do anything in case she brings on new traumas. Bottling it all up inside so that she isn't reminded of it. While she has a lack of emotion, she also is calm and, as mentioned near the beginning, is completely sane, "physically and mentally". However, Alma who at the begging appears happy with her life, career and family eventually opens up about it. Her emotions run riot and she confides in Elisabeth about the time she had cheated on her husband. Her emotional monologue is a highlight of the film. Perhaps the roles of the 'nurse' and the 'patient' had reversed. Is it better to simply exist and be content, or be 'alive' and be almost hysterical.

Although what was happening on screen was very down to earth and real there was certainly a strong unnerving and unusual feeling throughout. The cinematography and performances played into this strongly, with strange dream sequences, peculiar camera placement and intense monologues. It reminded me very much of David Lynch's ability of somehow manages to turn realistic scenes hauntingly surreal. No doubt Lynch had been influenced by Persona and Bergman as a whole.

Persona isn't a clear film to me, it presents a certain challenge to understand. I hope that I'll revisit it one day and make even more of it. However, without understanding the deeper themes and meaning it still grabs my attention and doesn't let go.