Monday, September 27, 2010

1966 - PERSONA Ingmar Bergman's masterpiece walks the line between great and pretentious

Whatever Bergman was up to in this enigmatic puzzle will probably continue to be a mystery as long as this film is viewed.  Bergman's film technique reminds the audience that they are watching a film.  At one point in Persona, the film literally begins to burn during the story. 

Liv Ullmann is a stage actress who has a nervous breakdown during a performance.  Since this is a Bergman film, the play is Electra.  Ullmann decides not to speak anymore and the film focuses on the relationship of Ullmann and her nurse Bibi Andersson, who confides in the mute Ullmann in what are extended monologues.

At first the film seems to be about Ullmann as an artist and her inability to relate to the turmoil of the real world around her.  The film then veers off into an examination of the character of the nurse. There is a particularly erotic scene as the nurse relates to Ullmann an encounter she had with two teenage boys on a beach. Andersson apparently did an uncredited rewrite on that scene.

Finally the film enters into some very strange territory with Bergman adding a doppelganger theme as he begins to merge the personalities of the women together, literally and visually. 

Bergman reaches deep inside himself with images and thoughts that only he could have explained but as far as I know never did,  perhaps he didn't understand them himself.  Persona's fascination comes from great photography, excellent acting, particularly from Andersson and brilliant direction.

Bergman directs Persona
A mystery of the mind put on film.

85 minutes.

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