Ingmar Bergman’s Persona
Elisabeth Vogler is a renowned stage actor, who one day experiences a moment of blankness during a performance. Strangely, this blankness doesn’t end, as Elisabeth seems to have permanently lost her voice (or rather, her volition to use it) after the incident due to some inexplicable psychological reason. She is prescribed a vacation in a Baltic Sea beach house, where she is accompanied by Anna, a young and cheery nurse whose talkative tendencies make up for more than Elisabeth’s perpetual silence.
The two make themselves at home in their Mediterranean escape. The sea is unsettled, the wind is restless, and the scenery is haunting. Surrounded by this active emptiness, the women begin bonding over one-sided talks. Anna pours her personality into these conversations, seeking the approval of her respected companion, trying to share a relationship with her new friend who needs help out of her depressive hole. Gradually, she begins indulging, confiding, and confessing her deepest insecurities to the silent one in good trust. And then, something incomprehensible happens. As the identities of both these women are revealed, their attachment to each other and their apprehensions come together to transform their relationship and alter their persona.
For a film about the extraordinary amalgamation of two distinct identities, Persona aptly experiments with its own identity as an art form as well, opening with shots of the filmmaking equipment before delving into the story. Brief but startling interludes which tear the 4th wall apart, in a very literal sense, raise constant questions about what this film is supposed to be. It’s almost as if it is pushing you not only to study the characters on screen, but also the philosophical nature of the celluloid delivering you the images.
Persona is an aesthetic, emotional, and cerebral masterpiece from one of the greatest minds to ever grace the director’s chair.
By Srijan Sinha