Scandinavian Series: Persona (1966). Friday, April 15th, 6 P.M., Zrinyi 14, room 412.

Persona, 1966
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Swedish with English subtitles, 85 min.

A young nurse, Alma, is put in charge of Elisabeth Vogler: an actress who is seemingly healthy in all respects, but will not talk. As they spend time together, Alma speaks to Elisabeth constantly, never receiving any answer. Alma eventually confesses her secrets to a seemingly sympathetic Elisabeth and finds that her own personality is being submerged into Elisabeth’s persona. (imdb)
Bergman believed that “film should communicate psychic states, not merely project pictures”. It’s therefore appropriate that “Persona”, with its doublings, mirror imagery, and uncanny fusions, should so seamlessly merge reality and fantasy. Strikingly self-referential – the opening credits include shots of a film projector, whilst during one argument the film itself breaks down, melting a hole in the screen – “Persona” lends itself to a variety of plausible interpretations. Partly it can be seen as a metaphor for the process of psychoanalysis, with Elisabet as the silent analyst and Alma the regressing patient, whose desires eventually erupt. Partly it explores the potentially exploitative relationship between artist and audience, and the difficulty of art in responding to the horrors of “real” life: thus Elisabet is visibly shocked by TV images from Vietnam and World War Two. And perhaps most fundamentally, “Persona” examines, to quote the film’s female psychiatrist, “the hopeless dream to be”, and how hard it is to penetrate beyond the masks we wear and the roles we play in our lives. Brilliantly performed by Andersson and Ullmann, and atmospherically photographed by Sven Nykvist, this is one of the landmark films of post-war cinema. (Tom Dawson, BBC)

Screening: Friday, April 15th, 6 P.M., Zrinyi 14, room 412.


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