Persona (1966)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Persona</strong> (1966)

(Kanopy streaming, September 2018) I approached Persona with a great deal of wariness—I’m already cool on Ingmar Bergman, on European art-house, on audience-supplied-narrative, on pretty much everything that Persona is said to exemplify. That it comes preloaded with a reputation as a movie where any interpretation has been dissected and found plausible didn’t help my mindset at all. On the other hand, my lowered expectations may have helped, because I found Persona to be reasonably interesting. It only takes a few moments for the aggressive opening sequence to quasi-subliminally show an erect phallus on screen—from then on, anything can happen and it’s almost a relief not to try to make sense of it as the film multiplies its show-off moments. There’s fourth-wall breaking, images of the physical film snapping, a high-energy interlude, a scorching-hot erotic monologue, great performances by Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann, deliberate confusion about the identities of the characters (or even whether they’re distinct characters) and a tone that leads you to expect the worst even if nothing much happens. In short, it’s an experience more than a story, and it works much better if you just let it wash over you. I still don’t like this kind of movie and wouldn’t necessarily recommend Persona unless I was sure that this is the kind of effect the viewer was looking for, but I’m satisfied to call my viewing of the film at least a draw in terms of enjoyment, which is much better than what I was expecting. Onward to other Bergman movies, I guess…

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