Persona Screen 13 articles

Persona

1966

Persona Poster
  • Ingmar Bergman's best film, I suppose, though it's still fairly tedious and overloaded with avant-garde cliches (1966). Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann exchange identities to the accompaniment of much musing about art, life, and politics, all of it much more obscure than is strictly necessary.

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    The Village Voice: Andrew Sarris
    March 23, 1967 | The Village Voice Film Guide (pp. 190-192)

    Ingmar Bergman remains essentially an artist in an ivory tower in an isolated country. Still, he manages to invest the faces of his players with an expressive excitement and their characters with a demonic energy none of his technically more accomplished colleagues in Sweden can approach. The Bibi Andersson of Persona towers over the Bibi Andersson of My Sister, My Love, and therein lies the mystery and magic of Bergman's art.

  • Bergman the overemphatic screenwriter, who still seems rooted in theater, is overwhelmed here by Bergman the visionary director, who finds so many striking ways to shoot two female faces (especially in relation to each other) that words become almost irrelevant, as Elisabet clearly believes.

  • After a stunning avant-garde prologue, the film moves fluidly between realistic and dream-like passages, culminating in some space where the two converge. For all the different cinematic forms on display, its most memorable sequences are arguably two highly theatrical monologues delivered by the nurse (Bibi Andersson, in her greatest performance)--frank considerations of sex and psychology that marked a new triumph over film censorship.

  • Reactions have mostly ranged from incomprehension to irritation with what is dismissed as a characteristic piece of self-indulgence. . . . Certainly it's Bergman’s most concentrated work, in a sense a summation of the themes dominant in most of his previous films; and it is undeniably a difficult film, if only because it leaves itself open to many interpretations. But then so does Hamlet; and one suspects that negative reactions to Persona are more a response to Bergman than to the film itself.

  • From the vantage point of thirty-six years, Persona can be seen as a standout film in terms of Bergman’s oeuvre and cinema history. The essays in Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, a 2000 compilation volume edited by Lloyd Michaels, position the film as a cinematic work of high modernism par excellence. And it is the sort of artwork about which those who have experienced it feel the utmost emotional and intellectual commitment.

  • Despite its elaborate meta-game-playing, which has had a pronounced and unquantifiable influence on film culture, Persona remains intensely alive and intimate. The interpersonal dynamics that drive the story may be only one level of Bergman's master plan, but they still register emotionally in a fashion that's so overwhelmingly erotic that you're encouraged to anticipate the indulgence of an easy thriller trope so as to ease tension...

  • Composed of flat visual planes with clear outlines, yet without a feeling of roundness and wholeness, Persona conveys an overwhelming sense of at once claustrophobia and trans¬parency, of suffocation and an almost hallucinatory clarity. Such deliberate one-dimensionality in the image, coupled with strong bodily responses, transmits the women’s predicament of being trapped directly to the spectator, making sensation a form of perception.

  • “Persona” is at once tactile and elusive, splintered and seamless, systematic and free-associative. Essentially a movie of fragments and vignettes, it is held together by the power of the artist’s craft and the centripetal force of his unconscious. It is not a riddle to be decoded any more than one might interpret a Beethoven string quartet. The meaning, as Sontag put it, “resides in the work itself.”

  • While Persona is celebrated for illuminating the landscape of the mind, its landscapes extend much farther: beyond its protagonists’ minds, beyond the film of which they are a part, beyond what we can see with (only) our eyes.

  • As Variety’s critic succinctly put it, “big themes are still his forte.” The severity and rigor with which Bergman attacked these issues and his complete lack of interest in packaging them ingratiatingly for his audience both dates the movie and makes it enduringly fascinating... This is a film that demands you watch it closely, take it apart and try to put it back together, bang your head against it, take it on as a project. It is unremittingly stern, and it is not interested in making you feel smarter.

  • The summit of Bergman’s career. . . . The film’s extreme visual inflection transforms the meticulous study of their day-to-day wrangles into symbols of psychological disturbance. With uncomfortably intense closeups, disorienting angles, harsh contrasts, and abrupt editing, along with dream imagery and fantasy sequences, he evokes his prime subject: the inner life, and, above all, his own turbulent visions.

  • In its opening and closing passages . . . [the young boy's] gesture evokes both the infant's need for the mother's reciprocal gaze and Melanie Klein's theory of the “good breast” vs. the “bad breast,” in which fluctuations between dependency and repulsion are only resolved when the child accepts that both breasts belong to the same person. Its projections onto the breast are thus the first instances of the dream screen, against which the child's conflicting emotions enact a primal cinema.

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