If I were to describe Persona in one word, it would be “majestic.”
Majestic in a sense that it is so impressively done given the mélange of filmic nightmare aesthetics and the gravity of the natural but brilliant acting done by Liv Ulmann and Bibi Andersson.
Deemed as an experimental Swedish psychological film by Ingmar Bergman, Persona could either silently creep into your veins or lead you to spiral down the rabbit hole- there is no in between.
The film focuses on two main characters, one constantly yearning to communicate and one constantly silent all throughout. Despite the film showcasing mostly lengthy conversations between the two mains, the film goes way beyond it, given the way it is presented.
The beginning of the film is very intricate and unorthodox, starting with film rolls and camera equipment being adjusted and then later on, showcasing a projection of various dark and bold images. One might get puzzled regarding what all of this is about and even at the end of the film, there would always be various interpretations regarding Bergman utilizing these montages.
The whole film is presented in an eerie manner, but the plot draws the audience to a familiar experience of finding difficulty in one’s own constructed identity. I personally felt Alma’s frustration towards Elisabet as she sought for security and reassurance given that she has grown attached to her patient to a deeper and more complex level.
In this film, one would not be able to guess what would happen next. I can say the suspense makes you either desire to leave the movie house or stay glued to the seat.
Again, there is no in between.
The plot starts out with a very direct presentation of the conflict which is about an actress who developed a speech problem and a nurse who would be assigned to take care of her. It was the most common hospital relationship one would see, specifically in the scene, where Alma just turns on the radio and leaves Elisabet, her patient to have a good night’s sleep.
Later on, they would be picking flowers in the garden, laughing in a beach house, staying there together for the actress’ recovery. More minutes in the movie, the two women would be a few centimeters away from having any physical contact and the camera would linger on the sexual tension building up between the two. More minutes in, there would be chasing in the sand, slapping, nose bleeding, bizarre sensual dreams, direct monologues displayed in two takes, with different camera angles and many many more.
With the variety of elements and play on score that builds up the intensity of the film, Bergman smudges the lines between fact & figment, always leaving clues but never really gives out the answer to the puzzle, leaving the audience with distorted perspectives on whether it was all just a dream or an illusion brought about the reality regarding the two women’s identical internal crisis within themselves despite externally being very very different.