Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sight & Sound Challenge: Persona (1966)

Film: Persona (52/250) 
Critics Poll: 17th 
Directors Poll: 13th 
First Time/Rewatch: Rewatch

I pretty much summed up my feelings about this film when I wrote about it for the blog four years ago. So, I'm copy-pasting because it's 9 pm on a Sunday as of this writing, it's 85 degrees, and I don't feel like generating new thoughts. What I will add is that when you watch this while you're very tired and kind of drifting away a little bit, it feels like you're having the most beautifully shot and profound dreams ever.


Persona tells the story of two women. One, an actress (Liv Ullmann), has suddenly stopped speaking. The other, her nurse (Bibi Andersson), senses the actress's strength of will and is intimidated by her at first. They stay together in a little house on the beach where they begin to get close and then almost become enemies, and their personalities begin to merge.

The film is sexual, nightmarish, beautiful, tense, puzzling. I set out to watch it expecting to not understand the film, but rather just experience it for what it was. The black and white photography is stunning and there are a couple very memorable monologues spoken by the nurse, who seems to experience every possible emotion in this house.

The film opens and then interjects in the middle with very brief shots that seem to have nothing to do with the story...a sinister face, a nail being driven through a hand, a dead rabbit. Roger Ebert, in his short essay on the film, tells us these images are taking us through film history, an example of what we can find in some of the earliest films. These images, for me, add to the dreamlike quality of the film. Many silent films evoke this feeling for me...the early days of cinema show a world that is nothing like our world today. To watch a film so outside of one's comfort zone has an intoxicating effect on the soul. Or maybe that's just me again.

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