martes, 25 de agosto de 2009

Ingmar Bergman's Persona

A famous actress (Liv Ullmann) suffers from a mental breakdown on stage, and leaves her unable to speak. In comes a nurse (Bibi Andersson) who is assigned to attend her. They both take a trip to the doctor’s private home, as the nurse tries to get the actress out of her spell. But in the loneliness and isolation that surrounds them, both get intimately close, and soon enough, problems begin to arise.
Yes, this is a very thin synopsis, you’ll recognize that if you’ve ever seen the film. But I didn’t want to leave anything away, since this movie actually has a lot to say. Oddly enough, the way I found out about it was quite interesting. I was in high school, and had already seen one Bergman movie, The Seventh Seal. In Blockbuster, of all places, I saw the box of this film, and decided to rent it on the basis of the cover alone. I mean come on, two hot Swedish blondes caressing each other? I was expecting lesbian soft porn! Boy was I wrong. Although it is both intimate and sexual, it’s all internal, shown on the performances of both actresses. Of course, Ingmar Bergman was a genius when it came to handling actors, and it can be seen by the way they react. Look at Ullmann’s pauses as she lies down on the bed, the light fading down, her eyes looking deep into the wall. That’s something you can’t teach in acting school! And look at the sequence in which Bibi Anderson talks about her foursome on the beach. It’s a very difficult scene for anyone to handle, acting and directing-wise, but Bergman handles it masterfully, creating what could be one of the most erotic sequences in film history without showing us any skin. I listened on, holding my breath, as if I was witnessing it myself. It’s incredible.
There’s a point where a lot of people get confused, and I did so myself, and this is the sequences in the beginning, middle and ending of the film where we see a proyector being turned on, flashes of different weird images (like a spider, of the killing of a sheep) to weird scratches of the film and shots of a boy in his underwear. Is this supposed to be Bergman? Is it supposed to be us? Is Bergman trying to make us delve into how filmmaking challenges us psychologically (psychology being a main theme in the film) or is he simply reminding us that this is a movie, and we shouldn’t take it so seriously? Well, watch it and make your own conclusions. It’s a great film and you won’t be disappointed.

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