If Ingmar Bergman cares about anything, it’s humanness and identity, the basic essence of who a person is. Few films explore the essence of who a person is more thoroughly than Persona, period. (Admittedly, though, I am a bit behind in viewing the Bergman canon). The story is simple: a famous actress (Liv Ullman) stops talking, a nurse (Bibi Andersson) is hired to care for her, and they live together in nearly complete seclusion. As the two live together, the actress Elizabeth, doesn’t speak, and as a result, the nurse, Alma, begins to chatter incessantly. She talks about everything, she talks and talks and talks until she has told Elizabeth every single embarrassing, honest, dark secret about herself. Eventually, the characters begin to meld together, relayed in striking visual sequences where even their faces are melded.
|Breaking the fourth wall.|
Ingmar Bergman’s Persona is an overwhelming venture. It is first and foremost about identity formation and malleability, but on a meta level, it is about the language and impact of narrative film itself. First establishing the assumed reality of its characters’ merging psyches within the world of the film, Bergman then pulls back to reveal the man behind the curtain pulling the puppet strings (himself). It begs the question of why he would do this in a film that is fundamentally about the influence of those close to us in shaping who we are and how we understand ourselves. After all, the development of Alma and Elizabeth’s personalities shaping each another, both by discarding past behaviors and creating new commonality, is enthralling and insightful, not to mention a bit alienating and discomforting. (Who really wants to admit that who they are is not their choice, but the result of countless human interactions?) So, why not simply stop there? Why remind us we are watching film? Why be so postmodern?
|Visualizing the internal.|