Here is a movie that almost has no point. I don't mean that in a diminutive way but rather the fact that it can be debated whether or not anything that happens on screen is actually supposed to have even taken place within the movie, or just an allegorical study on the strange, tense relationship between two women who seem to be becoming more and more like each other -- we're never told. This however, much like the rest of the movie, is entirely up for interpretation. Many arguments defend whether or not the characters are meant to be real or just figments of each other's imaginations. To me, it doesn't matter if any of it was supposed to be real or not: I simply wasn't interested.
The acting is fine by the small cast (there are essentially only two characters in the movie and one refuses to speak) but I never found any emotional connection to the characters. There are some penetrating scenes, but these moments feel both staged and superficial. Instead of establishing a connection between these two women, it felt like most of the relationship was being built in-between scenes. This could have been intentional, but I doubt it.
Up for interpretation in nearly every way, there is only one thing that's for sure about Persona, and that is the incredible cinematography. The influential camera angles can be seen in many other movies that came much later and for this I must applaud. Not many movies can help revolutionize cinema, so when one comes around that does, despite my adversities, I must give credit where credit is due.
To me, Bergman's previous work with such classics as Through A Glass Darkly, Wild Strawberries, and The Seventh Seal didn't need to rely as heavily on meaningless gimmicks (showing the camera crew as it shoots the movie and cutting to the image of a reel of film crackling are both good examples) as they did genuine emotion, atmosphere, social and religious metaphors, and cohesive plot structures -- a few of the elements I have come to love about many of his movies. Here, it seems Bergman was trying too hard to produce a work of art, that he forsook the elements that made his work art, instead giving us something that was merely artistic, robbing his viewers of a reason to feel his work on an emotional level.
The epitome of an arthouse movie, Persona is both pretentious and extremely self-indulgent. But regardless of my personal thoughts on this movie, I wouldn't stop you from watching it. It's both well-made and well-acted; I just felt it had a story more fitting for an offbeat episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents than a full-length movie.
- Jeff S.C.
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