Milez Das’s review published on Letterboxd:
First Film of this Year
Sister Alma: Elisabet? Can I read you something from my book? Or am I disturbing you? It says here:"All the anxiety we bear with us, all our thwarted dreams, the incomprehensible cruelty, our fear of extinction, the painful insight into our earthly condition, have slowly eroded our hope of an other-wordly salvation. The howl of our faith and doubt against the darkness and silence, is one of the most awful proofs of our abandonment and our terrified, unuttered knowledge." Do you think it's like that?.
A movie which is hunting yet beautiful to watch. Persona has always been one of my inspirational movies. It has an impact on me that wants to study the human characterization.
Every scene in this movie is important, even the conversations. When I am watching this movie, I start to assume how Elisabet is seeing Alma. Is she just watching her transforming into her, or it is just another play for her, or it just character study she wants to like a pet project. It just starts to question you. Even the camera focus is mainly on their faces and the overlapping scenes telling us that the Persona's are dissolving in each other. Sometimes the shots are taken from long focusing on one of the characters then going a foot closer then again closer and finally on to the face and the expressions.
It is just so incredible to watch something magical happening. I still remember the conversation of Alma where she is describing her orgy with a boy and a woman. In previous conversation she says she has been faithful to her fiancé but in the next she talks about how she was lying naked, some boys are watching them, she is ashamed but still she doesn't want to move. The woman besides her starts to seduce the boy and she herself get in the action and how she describes her orgasm's and how she was in the moment of the seduction. It was just so, I don't know how to describe it. It was just like a moment of self exploration.
Then we see Alma's outbreak over Elisabet's letter. How she reacts and how she feels betrayed. We also see how she compares herself with Elisabet in the mirror or the dreams of Alma where Elisabet is with her comforting.
The scene where Alma goes to meet Elisabet's husband and the husband sees Alma as Elisabet and even touches her there are the images of Alma and Elisabet blending into one was just incredible. It was just the moment where the Persona title is defined perfectly.
And the last and the best conversation of the movie where Alma starts to describe Elisabet's situation and how she is rotten person and how she hates her own child and the expressions on Elisabet's face and the repeated scene on how Alma is telling the story and finally breaking down and realizing she is becoming like Elisabet and then the dream sequence. It is just like a punch on our face.
Sister Alma: What are you hiding under your hand? Let me see. It's the photo of your little boy. The one you tore up. We must talk about it. Tell me about it, Elisabet. Then I will. lt was one night at a party, isn't that right? It got late and quite rowdy. Towards morning someone in the group said: "Elisabet, you virtually have it all in your armoury as woman and artist. But you lack motherliness." You laughed because you thought it sounded silly. But after a while you noticed you thought about what he'd said. You became more and more worried. You let your husband impregnate you. You wanted to be a mother. When you realized it was definite, you became frightened. Frightened of responsibility, of being tied down, of leaving the theatre. frightened of your body swelling up. But you played the role. The role of a happy, young, expectant mother. Everyone said, "Isn't she beautiful? She's never been so beautiful." Meanwhile you tried to abort the foetus several times. But you failed. When you saw it was irreversible... you started to hate the baby. And you wished it would be stillborn. You wished the baby would be dead. You wished for a dead baby. The delivery was difficult and long. You were in agony for days. Finally the baby was delivered with forceps. You looked with disgust and terror at your squealing baby and whispered: "Can't you die soon? Can't you die?" The boy screamed day and night. And you hated him. You were scared, you had a bad conscience. Finally the boy was taken care of by relatives and a nanny. You could get up from your sickbed and return to the theatre. But the suffering wasn't over. The boy was gripped by a massive and unfathomable love for his mother. You defend yourself in despair. You feel you can't return it. So you try, and you try... But there are only cruel and clumsy meetings between you. You can't do it. You're cold and indifferent. He looks at you. He loves you and he's so gentle. You want to hit him because he doesn't leave you alone. You think he's disgusting with his thick mouth and ugly body. His moist and pleading eyes. He's disgusting and you're scared.
What I love about this movie is the characterization. This is a difficult movie to perform and make. Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann have given a performance of a lifetime. Liv Ullmann is just perfection here and Bibi Andersson is beautifully perfection. Her character was like a child like sometimes even a teenager and finally a mature one.
Ingmar Bergman has given another masterpiece that questions the subconscious and the identity of someone.