Perhaps, there are certain things that you see or encounter that just leaves you in a space of discomfort, confusion, and a certain form of an odd illusion. Persona (1966) was just that for me. The film is, simply put, utterly strange in its own charming, artistic way. I am not one for interpreting such films, as something like Persona left my mind in absolute chaos. To this day, I still do not fully understand what the film truly means. But then, perhaps, that is part of the beauty of the whole thing. I might actually say that this film feels a lot like a horror film—a beautiful one, however. It disturbs me to the core, but it leaves so many beautiful marks at the same time. I remember talking to a few friends right after seeing the film in class, and telling them honestly that I would be totally up to watch it again if I had the chance to do so.
Watching the relationship between Alma and Elisabeth Vogler unfold and progress throughout the entirety of the film was quite the experience. I found myself at the edge of my seat in every sequence, waiting for that moment wherein Elisabeth would finally speak after suffering that nervous breakdown that caused her to spiral into a case of anguish. The scenes of one-sided silences were somewhat eerie, and there was something so discomforting about the strangeness of some of the sequences. There was this one long scene that stands as the most highlighted portion of the film: it was when Alma exposes Elizabet’s past for her, the same monologue delivered twice in two different angles that showed each of the women’s reactions and expressions through it all. The film provided so many visuals and images that were disturbing to say the least, but it disturbed me to a point that I just seemingly wanted to keep figuring it out more and more. I could not seem to understand the latter portion of the film when things started to become confusing, with various scenes showing that the two women’s identities seem to have started overlapping and interconnecting, almost melding into just one shared persona, and that made things ultimately complicated for the two, whose friendship was already shaken and falling apart. The story line was truly complex, and I am sure that every one who watches it for the first time often finds themselves hungry for answers and for clarity due to all the questions that have popped up in their heads throughout the whole film experience. And obviously, in fact, I am indeed one of those people.
The director, Ingmar Bergman, once posed the question about the film: “What is true, and when and how does one tell the truth, if there is such a thing?”. Perhaps, the film left me asking more and more questions and never actually gave me any concrete answers, but perhaps, the second time around, I’ll fall in love with its strange charm even more.