Persona

Persona ★★★★★

Film #3 of 'It's June Jim, but not as we know it.'

"Persona" comes from Latin and is a word used to describe a mask an actor would wear to portray a character. That says it all really.

Bergman's Persona goes out of its way to emphasize the fact that we are watching a film. There are a couple of instances where he uses images to make that clear and he at one point even steps out of the film completely and shows us a brief shot of the scene we're watching being filmed. I don't really know what Bergman's desired effect was, I can only say what effect it had on me. It distanced me completely from the film, forcing me to have no emotional connection to the characters and treat them like Bergman treats them, as objects to be analyzed.

Watching this felt more like reading a treatise on the id, ego and super ego than anything else. Like a psychoanalyst, we are not allowed to feel any connection to our subjects, in case it should cloud our analysis.

So I guess I should analyse the patients then. I think that what Bergman is trying to convey is how emotional trauma can lead to the loss of self, how the outside world (here in the guise of the violence of the Vietnam war) can turn one into an emotional hermit. When two people, a taker and a giver, meet and share traumas they mutually influence each other, each taking over aspects of the other and esentially becoming one person, creating as at were a Persona Mask over their linked psyche.

Bergman stylistic approach to this project is amazing. He constantly contrasts black and white, light and dark in such a way that it beautifully accompanies the fractured minds we are observing. The way he manages to have his actresses become one person, even though they look nothing alike, is extraordinary, culminating in what is perhaps the most iconic shot in the film, that of the shared face.

There is much to analyse here and I'm sure I only found the broad strokes first time round, but I'm sure I'l return to it later. Not too soon though, as it is a cold and distant film, one that exclusively appeals to the intellect.

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