Saturday, August 2, 2014

Persona review

Persona is an illusion. A nightmare, an acid trip, a Kafkaesque beach vacation. Persona is a movie. 
I don't think a movie has ever really emotionally effected me quite like this one. After the credits rolled and the film was done, I continued to think about Ingmar Bergman's Persona. I sifted the scenes through my mind, thought about the movie in depth. I found myself shaking. My stomach churned. I was honestly shaken by this movie. It reached into the confines of my psyche and asked me questions about what made me, me. I'm not entirely sure what to make of a film like this. Moments after the movie had finished, I stared at the screen and thought to myself "What the hell did I just witness?". I'm still sort of asking myself that, but in a less condescending manner. Persona is about a nurse (Bibi Andersson) who is tasked with looking after an actress (Liv Ullmann) who, by her own free will, has decided to stop talking. It's about much more than that though. In some ways it's about the human condition and what makes us snap, in other ways it's about films and movies. The film is incredibly aware that it's a movie. At certain points the screen starts rip up as if the film in the projector had caught fire. At another point in the film it cuts to a camera crew and even the director himself, filming the very movie we are watching. I suppose it's the first 'meta' film in that way. I haven't seen anything by Swedish director Ingmar Bergman until now, but if Persona is any judgement of his other work than I'm sure the guy's a genius. Any director that can truly cut to the core of a person through a film is bound to be more than talented. Watching Persona reminded me of another movie I watched this year, Under the Skin. Throughout watching Under the Skin my mind went through a whirlwind of emotions. At first I was confused, and then I kind of liked it, and then I hated it, then I was confused again, and finally I was left in utter shock when it ended, still not entirely sure what my final opinion was on the film. After much thought, I came to absolutely love Under the Skin and have seen it twice now. That's basically how I feel about Persona. A film so strange, off-putting, and hypnotic that I had no idea what to make of it at first but now want nothing more than to see it again. I suppose you could call it a difficult film, and I imagine many people wouldn't like it very much. An understandable opinion, but I do urge you to give it a try with an open mind. It is a truly awesome movie. Some classics, while still good, seem to lose their power with time. Persona is not one of these movies. It is as powerful and scary and interesting as I imagine it was back when it was released in 1966. Practically everything about it is impeccable. The two lead actresses, Ullmann and Andersson, are fantastic. Every scene they're in radiates with dominance and talent. They're in pretty much every scene in the film and really have to devote themselves. They do not disappoint. Bergman, as I mentioned before, does a masterful job really reaching out and disturbing the calm in the audience. He creates such awesome and wonderful tension here that I don't think I've seen in any other films. He can make you sit on edge with nothing more than a closeup. And he holds his shots extremely long, which is very admirable. I often hear people dismiss black and white films, and even more so, foreign films as being pretentious or boring. I do not think Persona is either of these things. It's a classic. What more can I say. A film that's confounding and weird yet so captivating and intriguing. The film is about two different people, a nurse and an actress, who begin to meld personas. What an incredibly strange idea for a movie! But it works very well. And in doing so, creates an experience comparable with nothing else. Persona is a twisted and cool little film I feel will stay with me a long time. I will return to it, and hopefully I'll get even more out of it then. As of now, all I will say is that it is a great movie. I wasn't sure of this immediately after watching it, but am sure of it now. Persona is simply, a masterpiece. 
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