Persona by Ingmar Bergman tells a story of a theater actress turned psychiatric patient named Elisabet who suddenly became mute after a performance where she unexpectedly stood blankly in silence, and her nurse Alma who was assigned to live with and take care of her in a summer house.
Watching this film was an unsettling experience that left me confused and puzzled. To begin with, the movie started with a montage of disturbingly eerie clips of a spider, a lamb being drained of its blood, a bleeding hand being nailed, and some old people who were either sleeping or dead, to name a few. Some of these clips appear again in the middle of the film. I assume there’s a meaning behind the addition of these random snippets, perhaps a foreshadowing of some sort in relation to the events in the characters’ lives, but I couldn’t quite get the connection. That, or I was too focused on feeling uncomfortable. There were also other parts of the plot that I had difficulty in trying to interpret: the growing attraction between Alma and Elisabet, Alma sleeping with Elisabet’s husband while Elisabet let it happen, the repetition of Alma’s narration of Elisabet’s attempted abortion story, Elisabet biting Alma, and even the quick appearance of the cameramen at the end. I think the vagueness of it all is Bergman’s way of leaving the film open to the audience’s own interpretation. Although initially it seems as though the plot is simple and straightforward, it develops to become a complex one that begs you to wonder. It’s a type of film that doesn’t give you the complete story right away and leaves you with unanswered questions. I believe it’s creatively brilliant to an extent, but it can also be confusing for some who are watching films made by Bergman for the first time. In terms of the film’s audiovisual presentation, I enjoyed its use of a monochromatic style as an added dramatic tool to emphasize the strong emotions in the film. The use and choice of music also helps heighten the film’s touch of horror and intensity.
Overall, despite it being a perplexing unorthodox type of film that left me feeling uneasy, I believe it is still captivating in its own way.