Explorer Of Movies’s review published on Letterboxd:
* A masterpiece
* I loved how Bergman focusses on faces. Loved the whole artistry, the music, the shots and the story.
* I saw three kinds of meaning in this movie. Literal, metaphorical and the third one is a spoiler.
* I am only writing part of my literal interpretation here in the non spoiler section. I don't think most of the meaning I saw in the movie is a spoiler. But I don't want to deny the opportunity for anyone to interpret it themselves. There's such a pleasure in that.
* Part of the literal interpretation - The protest of Elisabet Vogler means a lot to me. I too am a lot of the times disgusted with what constitute human life and the horrors I see on the world. Above all I am disguted with myself for participating in such a life and world. (Of course I have philosophical answers to such problems. They keep me in the game) But my point is I can understand and identify with her anger which leads to her protest. A lot of philosophical dialogues (which I really loved) first by the doctor, then in a book read by Alma says these points. I was glad to see such a movie. The protest is a great political statement too as becomes apparent. Most of us are in constant denial of the horrors of the world, every single day. It helps us to move forward. But Elisabet reminds me a part of myself which wants to scream and protest against life in general and societal institutions. (Then I watch movies, in a way like how Mank gets drunk, and forget myself 😂). So Persona shows me the meaningful problems for which Persona itself is the main solution for me. 😂
BELOW I WRITE SPOILER POINTS
There is a huge gap between the spoiler points and the bottom of the review.
* My metaphorical interpretation of the movie. - The actress is our unconscious mind and the nurse is our conscious mind. The former is always silent and the latter is always talking to it. We also attempt to interpret our unconsious (what are our exact desires and feelings, why we have these emotions etc) like the nurse wants the actress to talk. But she is unsuccessful except for making her say the word 'nothing' at the end. It shows our failure to ever really understand our unconsious. Because of it's deafening silence the most honest interpretation is that it really means 'nothing'. Of course that's still our interpretation and it may not be true. But like the nurse makes the actress say that word, that is the best we can do.
The 'hate my own child' scene shows our conversation with the unconsious perfectly. We ask it, is this the meaning? There is no response. So we make up a story and interpretation and hope that it is the meaning. Like the nurse does. She seems sure. But is it possible to really know that is the truth?
Looking deep and adamantly into our unconsious is dangerous. It drinks our blood eventually. As is shown in the movie literally. It ruins our life, suicide will seem like a genuine way forward. As Nietzsche wrote, if you look deep into the abyss, it also looks back at you. As a great philospher who deeply thought about life and eventually went mad, I think he knows what he is talking about. So as suggested in the movie, the best way forward from deep introspection, is to slap the crap out of the unconsious 😂. Kidding, in other words just forget about too much introspection, ignore the unconsious and move on with our lives, to focus on what to do rather than what to think. After the slap scene, the actress and the nurse go their separate ways. Like the conscious mind and unconsious ought to do after an intense attempt to make it 'talk'.
The eroticism of the whole movie shows the sexual thoughts you encounter during deep introspection. Sexual thoughts and urges are a constant companion when we go deep into us. Alma's story sounds more like well construed porn from a straight male point of view than anything realistic. The sensuality between two woman (from my straight male point of view) again shows how dominant sexual thoughts are when we try to introspect.
To conclude - I think the main philosophical message of the movie is this. It is not good for us to try to figure it all out intellectually. It is a dangerous process if we keep at it. Look at what happened to Nietzsche. It is better to move on with our ACTIONS rather than focus intensely on THINKING. We have to act with the burden of not knowing everything fully. But that is the best option.
* My interpretation of the first scenes which come again in between the movie and the end -
The projector is turned on. The filmmaker starts to create his story. The spectacled boy represents Bergman or any writer/artist. The process of creation is filled with all the things we encounter during life and especially during the process of creation. Comedy, sex, the spider symbolise the hostility of nature, the crucifixion represent human suffering etc. After that the fimmaker/writer/artist starts to create his story and characters. As represented by the boy wiping the vague image of a woman into clarity. That is an artist trying to bring a character which is vague in his/her mind into more clarity. The picture becomes little clear and goes back to vague again. The writer gets some glimpse of the character and it become unclear again. And the movie starts. The writer is writing his story.
In between the movie, it becomes unclear to the writer what to write next. Then again the comedy, sex, hostile nature, human suffering, all that happens which the writer must battle while continuing the process of creation. Again there is an attempt to make the character clear again. And she comes back to the movie character figure from an unclear image. The writes continues writing his story.
The movie has ended. But the writer is still wiping the image of the character which is still unclear. Though he has written the movie he has only explained very little of a her character. Everything else about her is still unknown to him. And even after the end of the story, there is still an attempt by the writer to figure more out about her character. Then the movie ends. Which means the writer has stopped that final attempt.
* My full interpretation of the literal story - When we are alone we sometimes fanatsize about being another human being and we act out how we play him or her. Writers and artists do the same thing professionally as an antidote to the deafening silence of life. Alma does the same thing. In the absence of any response from Elisabet, she starts to talk for Elisabet and play Elisabet. It is the response to loneliness. (Think about Tom Hank's friend in Cast Away)
Why Elisabet stopped her protest? She stopped it when she saw someone feel exactly like her. The doctor intellectually explained how Elisabet feels. But that wasn't enough for her. Alma by playing Elisabet showed her exactly how she feels. Alma used words like unbearable pain and nausea. And screamed. Acted it out. That is the kind of horror Elisabet feels towards life in the context of monks burning themselves dead in Vietnam or the horrors of war (that picture Elisabet looks at with soldiers pointing a gun at a child whose hands are up). The suffering of life, as becomes apparent in the 'hate my own child' scene, also lead to her protest against life.
* If a movie made me write so much with a running time of about 1 hour and 20 minutes, it is truly a masterpiece for me.
Elongated the review because of spoiler points.