“Persona” (1966) by Ingmar Bergman: a film review

I don’t know what to say about Persona, but I know I have to say something. I can say straight out that I did not fully grasp it, nor do I believe that it is fully able to be grasped by anyone except Ingmar Bergman. Like “2001: Space Oddesey” or “American Beauty”, “Persona” allows for a plethora of interpretations depending on your mood the day of watching it, none of which can ever be said to be correct. Knowing and accepting that you cannot understand everything about humanity is an acute wisdom gained by only a few who watch this film, and I love that about it. It’s not elitism to which I refer, but a patience and appriciation for both the art and craft of film and “people.”

If there is not one yet , there should be a Criterion Collection Edition, complete with scholarly commentary (much like “The Seventh Seal”, also by Bergman, also one of my favorite 50 films of all time). Not that I want anybody to tell me definitively what anything means, but hearing a scholar or philosopher or psychologist talk about thtese films would facinate me. This is a film worth watching at least twice in one’s life, but never back-to-back within days or weeks of each viewing. This should be allowed to simmer; to be revisted months or years later, as we each grow and age in our own way. It is my humble opinion that revisiting films like these every five or so years would have one’s interpretation of the film slightly change. Different parts would be relatable’ scenes would take on a new meaning; a character we loved in our twenties is the character we despise in our thirties. I have found this true with “American Beauty”, “There Will Be Blood”, and “Fight Club”. As I have aged, the meanings change. Some messages strengthen; others weaken. It is marvelous.

The artistry of Sven Nykvist, the cinematographer, always been one of the very best, and on the acting skills of Liv Ulmann and especially Bibi Andersson, exhibiting some of the bravest and most powerful performances I’ve ever seen in a movie. These women are as good as Marlon Brando in “Last Tango in Paris.” It seemed to me that she was becoming extremely involved in her character.

And this is where I need to just engulf myself in this film. While I cannot exactly “get” this film from a narrative angle entirely, the important thing, and the aspect of the film which will no doubt bring me back time after time is the emotional aspect. It is flat-out haunting. While my intellect is sharp if I may say so, the text of the film is crafty and slippery; my emotions were right with the characters yet something was slightly askewed. few films are so clutching and silmutaneously illusive.

It was a gut-wrenching film for me, like many Bergman films, and I felt, some weird feelings after it ended. The best part is, the weird thing I feel when I watch it ten years from now may be totally different. One of the greats. Worth a watch for people who don’t mind having their mind screwed with, who don’t mind subtitles, who are curious, philosophical young adults, or just enjoy good cinematography.

Ingmar Bergman rarely dissapoints. Even his worst are better than most. (rating: 9/10)

MH

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