Persona: An Unpleasurable Art Cinema Classic

220px-Persona_Poster.jpgMost movies are usually created to satisfy people and for them to have a pleasurable experience while watching. However, some movies are intended to make the viewers feel uncomfortable, which is how Bergman’s film Persona was. After watching the film, I honestly felt bothered, confused, and disturbed as I left the room because I could not comprehend what I watched at first, and even when there were moments wherein I thought I was following the movie, I ended up being more and more confused as it went on.

The beginning of the film showed disturbing images that set the mood of the film from the very start as it is a psychological drama. Accompanied by a musical score which was haunting that contributed to the overall experience of the movie, images such as an impaled hand and the killing of a lamb were shown before the film started to focus on the two main characters, Elisabet and Alma. Elisabet is an actress who decided to stop talking despite being perfectly healthy, and Alma was her nurse. Since Elisabet could not speak, the film focused on showing her facial expressions, body gestures, and how she was really attentive in listening to the stories Alma shared about her life. This became ironic as Elisabet became the one comforting Alma because of her troubled past that she cannot seem to let go of. The series of disturbing videos were repeated as transitions again in the film that did not really make sense for me but then it signified that something was about to happen. This was used when Alma confronted Elisabet about the letter that she wrote, which included the stories that Alma shared. This was an important scene in the film as when Alma was about to pour boiling water at Elisabet, she finally breaks her silence saying, “No, don’t.” This was not actually the first time that she spoke but it was the only time that Alma was certain since she also whispered to her before.

The confusion continues as the characters seem to have had similar experiences and as the film went on, they seem to become more and more identical. They both experienced trying to abort their babies but Elisabet failed and this resulted to her hating her son. There was also a scene where Elisabet’s husband appears and sees Alma as his wife and they end up making love to each other while showing how Elizabet reacted. This shows how the film’s plot can be confusing because it did not really explain everything and left it to the viewers on how to interpret what was happening. There is also a sense of uncertainty whether some of the scenes actually happened and if not, whose imagination was being shown? Another instance of this is when Alma confronts Elisabet about her child was repeated, which I interpreted as giving emphasis on the importance of this scene to the movie. In this scene, Alma rattles on about how Elisabet just played the part of a happy mother and how she looks at his child with disgust since she really did not want to have the child. The ending was very puzzling for me as Alma proclaims that she is nothing like Elisabet but it also includes showing previous shots of them together and their faces overlapping, as if they are the same person.

Persona was a very complex film despite its supposedly simple plot, but the different elements along with the fitting musical score and uneasy feeling that were inflicted on the viewers did not really make the viewing experience a pleasurable one. Despite the complexity and confusion, I got how this movie is considered as an art cinema classic.

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