Persona ★★★★

So many movies present themselves as puzzles to be solved, presenting the viewer with a barrage of motifs, characters, scenes, and themes, then expecting them to piece together what it all means. And with enough examination and deeper reflection, oftentimes, you can come to a satisfying conclusion about what the filmmaker was trying to say. I’d liken watching Ingmar Bergman’s Persona to that metaphor, except that you have to assemble this massive puzzle with a blindfold on; you might be able to connect some pieces if you try hard enough, but in all reality, you will probably never grasp the greater picture at hand ...

… and that’s ok. Persona is such an unflinchingly intimate experience, one so entwined with the inner workings of its creator that it's damn near impossible to decipher for anyone other than him. And to some, I can see that being a justifiable turn-off; it being a film so closed-off from conventions and coherence that’s a fool’s errand to understand, and thus, is unenjoyable. But to me, that’s precisely what makes it so great. The film clearly has so much to say about our own identities and how we choose to live, and from the themes I could pick up on, it’s executed quite well. Even then, I’ll still never fully understand all of what was on display, and in that sense, the film remains endlessly intriguing. Persona will forever be the Holy Grail of the art of cinema; our understanding of which will endlessly be dangled above our heads, always out of reach. And much like Bergman, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Criterion Challenge 2021

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