Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
Considering my eternal admiration towards the great master that is Ingmar Bergman, I've decided to treat myself with this review of his most experimental film: Persona. Frankly, my "fanophilia" isn't the main reason why I decided to review this extraordinary masterpiece, it is reaction to the entry of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die Blog Club on December 22nd: The Seventh Seal. Don't worry, I'm not doing Persona instead of The Seventh Seal, the review is already written it is just waiting to be released on the day of the assignment. By the way, if anyone wants to join the club you are all welcome to! Follow the link aforementionned and write to my great friend Squish and he will be more than happy to include you into our active reviewers!
Most of Bergman's films don't feel contemporary, they have this unaged and unaltered by time touch. The Bergman touch, well few filmmakers had the gift to make such rich and strong films. But Bergman is one of the perfect examples, the settings and simple mise en scène lets the story and the emotions take all the space and the viewers' attention. What is more important is that the stories and feelings portrayed and displayed are more often than not universal even if it is a Swedish film about the bourgeoisie or medieval characters. Persona takes a step away from these patterns in many ways but it is this exception that's makes it a film even more interesting than most of the rest of his films. Clearly set in contemporary times, the 1960's with the news footage of the beginning of the film, we are set up in a world where everything is in complete change, mutation, morphosis, even in revolution. Bibi Anderson and Liv Ullman, two of the most beautiful women of the 1960's by the way, are in a cabin where Ullman portrays an actress who stopped talking on the stage and never did since. Bibi, is the nurse who's taknig care of Ullman, she represents innocence and the fact that she always talks about all and anything shows how shallow she is. On the contrary, Ullman who is pratically playing the mute watches and listens to her with contempt and severity while seing clearly through Bibi.
The film brings many questions on the modern society and the many perceptions we have of our world. The title of the film Persona, resumes the central scene of the film that is doubled when the two main characters trade their personalities with a split screen imagined by Bergman himself. It looks like a reflection on the fact that when two people are almost isolated together that they kind of begin to look alike. There is also the effect of the character mix where each one gets more and more intertwined with the other one. It is kind of a reaction of their relationship that feels like the younger sister who's taking care of the oldest which should be the other way around. Whatever someone finds as the meaning of the film it is a psychological and philosophical charged film.
The major deception I have with this film it is its release on DVD, done by MGM in a Bergman Boxset that doesn't really live up to the quality of the films. I hope someday Criterion will acquire the rights to make a proper release of this amazing masterpiece.