Thursday, 9 June 2016

''Persona'' (1966 film)- Review

Directed by: Ingmar Bergman
Released: 1966
Country: Sweden

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Rating: 5 out of 5


''Persona'' tells the story of two women, Elisabet, played by Liv Ullman, and Alma, played by Bibi Andersson. Elisabet, a famous actress, has suddenly stopped talking, and is being treated at a hospital. Alma, a nurse, has been assigned to take care of Elisabet. When Elisabet continues her silence, the doctor, a middle-aged woman, decides to send Elisabet- along with Alma- to her own seaside summer home, hoping that a change of atmosphere would help Elisabet recover. Following the doctor's instructions, Elisabet and Alma go to the summer home, and the two form a close bond. They spend cheerful days together, reading, writing, and playing, and while Elisabet seems happy, she does not talk. Alma, however, cheerily confides in Elisabet, talking continuously about this and that, and Elisabet looks happy to listen to her.

So the first few days seem normal and cheerful. However, as the two women spend days after days with each other, separated from the rest of the world, strange things seem to happen. Alma feels as if Elisabet's personality, her identity is suddenly emerging into her own, she often starts imagining herself as Elisabet. It sometimes seems as if Elisabet's identity is imposing itself on Alma's personality.

It is hard to explain this film using a few words. Yes, it is hard. While the first thirty minutes or so seem simple, the film eventually goes on to become complex and dreamy. There comes a point at which we are no longer sure of what is happening, if the things that we are seeing are actually happening or if they are part of a dream, or merely a hallucination. It is hard to get over a particular dream sequence, where Alma is sleeping and Elisabet walks into her room and then Alma wakes up and stands up, with Elisabet standing behind her. It is such a hauntingly impressive sequence, certainly one of the most memorable sequences from the film, if not the most. There are several other sequences that are just as haunting- yes, haunting is actually the right word to explain them- because at a point we seem to lose track of everything that is happening, we do not know where the film will lead us to, we do not know what conclusion we will come to. We do not even know if the scenes that we are being shown are actually happening or not.

All these being said, ''Persona'' is a complex yet beautiful cinematic achievement. All these dream sequences, the monologues, the cinematography- these are so impressive and memorable. Bibi Andersson's performance is simply perfect, while Liv Ullman is very impressive as well. There is a scene in which Alma is talking and then we see half of Elisabet's face imposing itself on Alma's face. So the face we are see in that scene is actually partly Alma's and partly Elisabet's. This is done so impeccably and impressively. Sure, this is a film that can interpreted in many ways, but it is also a film that I would recommend to everybody. And here is a piece of advice: don't try to interpret or figure things out while watching the film. This is a film whose every single second should be observed and admired. You will feel the urge to figure things out or interpret what story the film is actually trying to convey or develop your own theories, but do that after you have finished watching the film.

5 out of 5 

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