Soumajit Nath’s review published on Letterboxd:
I've watched PERSONA years ago, I've remembered literally not a shit about the film..but what I can recall very clearly that's it's weird ability to cast a horrible spell on me. It's powerful not because that of it's content is explictly horrifying and hard to study but because of what it asks us to solve after it completes a more or less 80 minutes lecture on human identity and existential crysis...and believe me those exercise problems are too tough to solve for but after hours of non stop brain storming sessions it even becomes hundred times more horrifying than what it's looked like from surface level, that literally goes under the skin when one think about it more. The questions it asks us is very simple and straightforward such as how we can choose what we really want to be? And does it really matter that what we've chosen? And if we have to choose in between "what we really are" and "what we want to become", what would one need to choose?...answers of all these questions aren't easy to decipher but Bergman gives us very practical explanation in verbally and visually from his lead actress Ullman who plays here a theater actress, Elisabet who suddenly stops speaking in the middle of Electra, and would never speak again.
what this film is really about? From which genre it really belongs to? Okay it doesn't has any genre. And moreover it's not even sensed as a cinema or may be it's the purest form of cinema which mankind has never witnessed before 1966! Perhaps Bergman has invented the Cinema by his hands and wonderful static variation shots of camera movements...he takes logic, he takes fiction, he takes reality and he even takes himself, he takes unsolved intimidating metaphysical questions ___ about identity, experience, gender, sexuality and existence, he takes his characters from the real world but tied them up in some dreamlike surreality...he let them rambling around freely inside their hapless depressive minds to find their own logic of their own dreams..it's very confusing for them as they feel as if they are living very version of life which they have seen in their naked eyes but reality is something else ..it's as if they find independence and fell independent while stuck inside a teribble confinement. But storywise PERSONA isn't that much confusing really as most of the people have claimed, it's very simple story and rather easy to understand the logical gist out of this. Even one can easily distinguish the dream sequences over the reality. It's story of a young gorgeous theatre actress Elisabet who finds herself in a vertigo of pain, guilt and horrible existential crysis who enables the mute button of her head after a sudden nervous breakdown..and for her well beings, to look after her a nurse named, Alma has been appointed by her doctor. The story revolves around Alma and Elisabet and their unusual personalities exchange game while they have spent times together in to a trip in an unnamed island for mental improvement of Elisabet. It's a psychological game which has been played in between a patient who's weak, sick in every aspect and her nurse who's stronger one but still she's lacking something that let her stay right behind everytime in the race with her contender. Alma and Elisabet both have similarities not just in their appearances and looks but also in their stories too. Elisabet stops speaking but Alma just speaks and speaks further. Alma unfolds her life stories, sins, innermost pain and her betrayal too infront of a good listener like Elisabet. One of the best scene of the whole film is Alma's epic monologue of confessing about her betrayal to her husband and participating into an orgy with some unnamed guys alongside with her girlfriend in a seaside beach. It's just so unique and yet felt so effective too as that monologue extends itself as a well illustrated cinematic venture into imaginative seaside landscape where literally I can see those two girls enjoying to have sex with two random boys just infront of my eyes.. It's a relief for Alma to confess her innermost guilt. But may be for Elisabet it's just seeing an idealized version of herself on the persona of Alma as everything what Alma has succeeded, in case of her that exact same events somehow didn't manage to get the desirous outcome. Alma managed to be an ideal lover to her husband, Alma managed to abort her baby as they didn't need the baby on that time but she has suffered for her guilty conscience..whereas on the other side Elisabet's story is exact opposite to Alma's, she also has participated in an orgy inside a beach and followed by that night she had also sex with her husband too and eventually ends up being pregnant. This baby isn't completely surprise for Elisabet actually as she deliberately needs to prove her supremacy as a mother as someone in some party has expressed his doubts that even Elisabet is may be the best as a glamorous woman and phenomenal theatre actor but she's certainly not capable of be a mother. So Elisabet needs this baby to prove his motherhood but as soon as she realised that raising a baby needs sacrifice and responsibility both and after few months moreover observing her ugly swollen body she started to think about abortion. All these confessions session has been more felt like an impressive form of forceful interrogation by Alma on her patient. It's again a epic monologue..which is atfirst told with the camera on Elizabeth's face. Then it is told again, word for word same, with the camera on Alma's face. It's not that tough to understand what's the motive of Bergman behind this scene...even there was multiple clues such as the iconic scene of submerging each half of both faces of Alma and Elisabet to form a new one and Alma, Elisabet combing each other's hair standing infront of eachother while reflection of their images showed up in a mirror....creatively yet skepticaly states that Alma and Elisabet are two different personas of same human body. And it's obvious both sides have their individual shortcomings. Alma thinks Elisabet has a better life but in real Elisabet sees Alma as a better replacement of her own real self. Alma sees her life as under a thick layer of guilt driven anxiousness whereas Elisabet has been suffering in between her pain, self loathing intents and her responsibilities.
Simple story with simple interpretation isn't a right word to describe any of Bergman film, specially when question comes to his most famous rather most confusing movie PERSONA! So what makes it confusing despite of having really a simple storyline with straightforward interpretation ? It's abrupt visual images which may be most experimental thing in the history of filmmaking..may be from Kielowski to Lynch or perhaps from Aronofsky to Lars von Trier everyone have got their inspiration from Bergman. He's the man who invents the formula of experimenting in the general arts of filmmaking..and his experiments of inputting visually striking images inside a story of descisions, experiences and dillema of choosing in between reality and idealism makes the whole film further confusing..not in sense of that much confusing where central story of the film has been faded away from the grip of viewers' consciousness but confusing enough to make them think about drawing parallelism in between those abruptly upsetting semmingly irrelevant visuals alongside with film's central narrative and Bergman's personal feelings. Those images come in the play in opening, middle and conclusion of the movie. The very opening sequence starts with a slow fade-in of a white square on the black screen. For a moment the space looks like a movie theatre; perhaps it's the specific moments when cinema takes birth..the image changes as it lights up and we realise that it is the inside of a projector. The rest of this opening sequence is kinda montage of self-contained images: a running film strip, a short scene from what looks like a silent movie, a clip from an animation of a skeleton, a close-up of the eyes of a dying sheep, shots of dead, unconscious or immobile people. And we notice a boy who takes his blanket on and starts to read a book..who is the boy? That may can be interpreted as Elisabet's abandoned son but what's the meaning of rest of visuals ?.. that lacks any kind of logic. These abrupt images again continues to roll in the middle portion of the film just after developing an envious crack in the relationship of Alma and Elisabet. Once again..same projector light, same skeleton animation and same glimpses of a hand gets crucified with a nail...and eventually all these abrupt randomness ends again with a tight closeup of an eye, not just close up, camera is moving in toward the eye, and even into the veins in the eyeball, as if camera's intention is to visit the very portion of human body which doesn't know any kind of pretentious deception. And at the very end of the film it's over in such a way as if it's sensed like the end of a cinema, lights are gone and reels are all run out, the little boy in white blanket stands infront of his mother's vague picture while we gets a certain glimpse of camera crew itself, with the camera mounted on a crane and we notice cinematographer Nykvist and Bergman himself there.
However, all the sequence has literally zero connection with the story of Alma and Elisabet practically from a outside view, but in deep down we know there must be a logic of somekind in behind all these logicless arbitrarity..actually it's meta abstract style is getting more meaningful or perhaps gets a certain logic when all these images has been revisited in a superimposed view with film's actual narrative in order to draw connections with the subject and visuals. Bergman’s choice of images evokes notions that are significantly related to cinema: he takes logical interpretation of human mind as the central attraction of his film but alongside the logic of human existence and identity he shows us literally a miniature version of life, film and art where we observed immobility to movement, birth to death, start to end, stillness to turbulence, illusion to reality, animation to live action and light to dark. Quite Similar to the film’s protagonist, Elisabet (Ullmann), Bergman seems to be suffered from pressure of generic filmmaking, as he prefers experiments and just like Elisabet's genuine answer "Don't try to be ideal, just be who you really are", Bergman too concludes his dream project by showing himself and his camera crews finally ends the shooting of this film which definitely states with confidence that It's Bergman and his crew who makes PERSONA and perhaps it's their real self which carry on experimenting! But what gives the horror of this film a wide audacity that's it's not even a substantive film as the atmost realistic events of the whole film are only Alma's threat of burning Elisabet's face with boil water and Elisabet's foot gets cut in a sharp piece of glass..but still it feels just so close to real as identity crysis is a mind game which has it's separate horror factor..and at the end in the tug of war in between Alma's pathos, worldview and Elisabet's despair, painful intimacy, only one specific side makes her way out from the grip of the dreamy surrealism and takes her step in real world because the title of the film is PERSONA!
●OLD IS GOLD: HERE
●1960s ALL FILMS RANKED: HERE
●FOREIGN FILMS RANKED: HERE
●A "SPEACIAL" LIST: HERE
●TOP FAVOURITE FILMS: HERE
●It's LYNCHIAN: HERE
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