Admittedly, as someone who’s only been exposed to mainstream movies up to this point, Persona has to be one of the strangest films I’ve seen so far. I was not sure how to feel immediately after the film ended, but after pondering about film and its certain aspects later on, I realized how well thought-out Ingmar Bergman’s art was. Intending for the film to become a psychological drama, Bergman succeeded in his objective.
The film starts with the doctor relaying to the nurse, Alma, the new patient she has to take care of. The doctor explained how the patient, Elisabeth, was an actress that became mute after an incident in a performance. After knowing of the patient more and seeing her for the first time, Alma already showed signs of feeling eerie due to the oddness of Elisabeth’s context. Frankly, I could not help but feel the same way Alma did. Almost ninety-percent of speech in the film was done by a single person, something I definitely have not seen before in a film. Dumbfoundingly, even though that was the case, the film was still able to effectively show communication between the two women. As the film progressed, the relationship of the two women also developed. Since Elisabeth was always silent, an emotional Alma was always the one telling personal stories of herself while Elisabeth actively listened.
A scene that confused me a lot was when Elisabeth approached Alma after the nurse had just passed out due to alcohol. A few seconds later, it seemed as if Elisabeth was supernaturally trying to switch personas with Alma. At this point, I started rethinking whether the film was a horror film or not. When Alma woke up the following day, she had idea what happened the night before while Elisabeth lied about her strange actions.
As the days passed by, Alma found herself slowly transforming into the character of her patient. Alma was portrayed to have little-by-little changes in her personality compared to herself when the film just started. There was even a seen where Alma was having intimate interactions eith Elisabeth’s husband. Still without voice, Elisabeth was able to communicate to Alma with pure emotion. It seemed as if there was a dialogue even with only one person speaking.
To be frank, watching the film was a bit difficult as there were varying themes to the move depending on a specific scene. One moment it was drama, the next a thriller, so on and so forth. It was a interesting and beautiful play on showing character and emotions, whether through voices or the silence.