Persona

Persona ★★★★★

A film that I think I am literally incapable of exhausting; unlike most of the canonical Great Films (as well as the films that are great without having been canonised), it doesn't feel like every viewing builds on the last one and reveals more depths and patterns and meanings in how the thing has been assembled. It feels like I need to start it anew every single time, finding to my shock that it has changed even faster in the intervening weeks and years than I have.

As I said when I tried to write a full-length review of it, it's a film that feels almost insultingly transparent while I'm watching it, but the second I try to start articulate its meaning, even just in my own mind, it instantly starts to lock up and grow as cryptic and opaque as Liv Ullmann's knowing, slightly terrifying Elisabet (that's one of those "it's new every time" things: this time around I was mostly watching it while thinking about Alma, something I've never done before. I think it's because this time, I'm watching it in the midst of a Bergman binge, so Bibi Andersson currently registers as a warm, familiar comfort, while Ullmann is some strange Norwegian interloper). It's sort of like trying to explain a dream, where the attempt to remember it makes it dissolve all the faster.

We all know the major stuff: the repeated monologue, the description of sex with the boys on the beach, all those close-ups (both singles and those freaky, psychologically transgressive two-shots), the opening montage, the film breaking in the middle, "no!". This time around, aided and abetted by watching it on an October night when it was pouring down rain (two things I have also never had with the film before, and sure enough, it made a difference), that slippery, dreamy quality, and the vague but inarticulable sense of dread, those are the things I'm rolling around in my mind.

(Previously reviewed at Alternate Ending)