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I like starting threads. I think this might be Bergman's most cynical film which is quite a feat. I didn't remember it being quite so negative the first time I saw it but now I think his central thesis is that love doesn't exist and what we call love is just an excuse to destroy each other and revel in hatred. He even goes so far as to corrupt the maternal love, and the images of the boy in that beginning make that vision heartbreakingly clear whereas they just confused me the first time.

I'm not positive whether the two characters are intended to be one person, lovers, or all of humanity; but I believe any of the ways gives the same message. Since they are so often seen as being the same person, we are invited to join their psyche and we become conspirators against ourselves or all of humanity. The only tiny bit that might be hope is as Bibi Andersson is looking into the mirror in the end and she sees Liv caressing her. It seems nostalgic but frightening at the same time so it's difficult to tell what we are supposed to feel about that scene.

So I'm not even sure if I like the film anymore...I admire the artistry of course. Bergman is a genius and this is possibly his finest hour. But even if it does ultimately speak truth about humanity (and I'm not even sure about this...maybe it could be seen as more of a warning), the lack of any redemption chilled me that time around. Does anyone have a more positive interpretation?

Oh, and sorry, I usually type as I think so I don't always make the best of sense.

I reason, Earth is short -

And Anguish - absolute -

And many hurt,

But, what of that?

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Not sure if this helps any, or even if this has much bearing on the film (which put me to sleep when I saw it at university several years ago), but there was an interesting article in yesterday's National Post on the question of personhood and whether it exists, and along the way, the writer states:

The history of the concept of "person" is largely a legal and ethical one. It began as persona, the Latin word for "mask." Since ancient actors wore masks, persona soon came to mean a "role" in a drama. Courtrooms are stages for dramas with various roles, too. Cicero once wrote as a lawyer-orator claiming he really felt the emotions he expressed on his client's behalf: "I was not the actor of someone else's persona, but the author of my own."

Soon "person" meant a role in a court proceeding: plaintiff, defendant and so on. As a result of all that, a "person" is an entity that has rights and duties.

And so on. The Post article looks at this concept in the context of the argument, put forward by Francis Crick and others, that there is no such thing as "personhood", or that what we call "personhood" is just an illusion ("Crick was saying that 'each' of us is not really a single entity but a continuum, a stream of many tiny units, or even of events"). And it reminds me of a conversation I had with someone from church last year, in which I realized my fundamental starting point in all matters theological or philosophical ultimately boils down to these seven words: "Either God exists, or I do not." There are times when I actually find it rather tempting to believe that I do not exist, or when I suspect it would be rather easy to believe that I do not exist. But I never quite buy it.

(Side note: The fact that the word "person" describes ANY entity in a courtroom proceeding, including not just individual human beings but also corporations etc., is the hook for that recent Canadian documentary The Corporation, which tries to "psycho-analyze" corporations and finds them basically "psychopathic," etc.)

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 4 months later...

I rather foolishly posted this in my blog, and Ron was quite right to point out that I should just go ahead and post in the thead. Confession time: I don't need to use my blog as a place to hide my thoughts, as if it's a "not-quite-ready-for-prime-time-posting" holding area. This is a difficult film to write about (and, in some ways, a difficult film to endorse), but I might as well go ahead and share my ramblings here.

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From my blog:

I saw this film several weeks ago. Man, I don

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Holy guacamole.

Since my enthusiastic response at Diane's blog, I've now learned that this is playing here in Chicago -- this weekend -- at the Music Box Theater. I've already scheduled House of Flying Daggers with el Preggo Wifebo for tonight, but wow. I must get to this tomorrow night.

Anyone else?

-s.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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If you don't go, I'll fly to Chicago and slap you silly.

I'm still not over Peter's decision, many months ago, to go see Paycheck instead of a big-screen showing of Sergio Leone's Duck, You Sucker. The pain is almost unimaginable. pinch.gif

My basic view of repertory screenings of any and all classic films is: GO. Do it while you can. I took advantage of several such screenings during my post-college years, although not nearly as many as I could have. Still, those are some of my fondest memories, and now that I live farther out from town and have family obligations, I can't make the screenings anymore. I missed all of the recent Bergman screenings in D.C. angry.gif All I'm left to do is offer encouragement to those who find opportunity knocking.

If you do have to miss the screening, I expect a doctor's note, or something...

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Side note: Do NOT trust Yahoo and their future movie times. Last night Yahoo told me that Persona would be at the Music Box tonight. Tonight Yahoo tells me it's gone. Slap me silly, Christian. STINK.

-s.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Bummer. Too bad you missed it. Netflix it, Stef. Maybe I'll Netflix it again and rewatch it, too.

Also: Chicago

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Note to Vancouverites: Persona will be playing here February 3-4 as part of the Cinematheque's Bergman retrospective.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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After reading more about Persona in a recent copy of Cineaste, I've moved it to the top of my queue. My movie habits have slowed down a little recently but I'd imagine I'll be seeing the film sometime in the next week or two. I'll post.

-s.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Revisited this a couple of nights ago. Hmm. I can definitely understand Sundered's thoughts at the top of this thread. I think my admiration of the film comes from its unique structure and brilliant cinematography, along with the fact that Persona offers an mind-bending psychological puzzle that's never completely solved but can be examined and interpreted to the nth degree. The story itself is beyond bleak. In the end, even thought it's one of the most stunning films I've seen all year, it just not one I can comfortably say I love. But maybe I've overindulged lately in Bergman's patented Cinema of Despair

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  • 4 weeks later...
Even thought it's one of the most stunning films I've seen all year, it just not one I can comfortably say I love. But maybe I've overindulged lately in Bergman's patented Cinema of Despair™.

That must be it, because I've just finished seeing it for the first time, and am awakened to the presence of film!

The greatest thing I noticed about Persona was that Bergman knew when to linger and when to cut like mad. He immerses us into a moment for certainly a lengthy period of time, but I never found it overindulgent, as in, "Let's see how much the audience can take!" There are moments, for instance in Angelopoulos' Ulysee's Gaze, which I still love, or moments with Tarkovsky, in which I feel like "the point has been made and it's time to move on." Here, with Bergman's concentrated efforts on the psychology of the characters involved, I never felt this way. But maybe that's because he's not doing it for the entire duration of the film. The opening, middle and end of the film, where the film in Irr

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Stef, I'm glad you found this to be rewarding viewing. Once again, I am able to return to my huge admiration for the film

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  • 6 months later...

Oh man and I thought I was going to revive this thread.

I recently watched this movie (twice) and it just keeps growing on me, not that I didn't like it to begin with.

I think, like much of this movie and many of its visuals, there are probably many ways to view and interpret each scene. I watched that scene with the idea that Elisabeth was preying on another human for existence, like a vampire. She was draining the life blood of Alma for her own personal gain, or game.

Just a quick thought.

...the kind of film criticism we do. We are talking about life, and more than that the possibility of abundant life." -M.Leary

"Dad, how does she move in mysterious ways?"" -- Jude (my 5-year-old, after listening to Mysterious Ways)

[once upon a time known here as asher]

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  • 7 years later...

From Camille Paglia's Sex, Art, And American Culture (1992):

Persona is the Latin word for the clay or wooden mask worn by actors in Greek and Roman theater. Its root is probably personare, "to sound through or resound": the mask was a kind of megaphone, projecting the voice to the farthest tiers of spectators. Over time, persona broadened in meaning to include the actor's role and then a social role or public function. Finally, it defined an individual under Roman law, as a citizen with rights and duties. We retain this sense in reverse in our "nonperson," a political victim. By late Latin, persona became a person as we now understand it, a human being apart from his social status ... Western personality thus originates in the idea of mask. Society is the place of masks, a ritual theater ...

My title [for the book, Sexual Personae] was inspired by a film, Ingmar Bergman's Persona. When I saw it at its American release (in January 1968), it seemed to crystallize the reflections of my college years, which led to the thesis of Sexual Personae: that the high development of personality in the West has produced a perverse sexual problematics unique in world culture. Persona, surely inspired by Strindberg's one-act play, The Stronger, is about power relationships and the use of personae in scenes of psychic combat. Nature's law here is cruelty, not pity. In a dreamy atmosphere of sexual ambiguity and through interludes of speech and silence, the film shows the resolution and dissolution of Western personae. Its stunning closeups force us to contemplate the plasticity and yet stoniness of the human face. Bergman's style, alternately iconic and metamorphic, respects both Apollo and Dionysus. Persona is a case study of the themes of my book: fascination, entrancement, obsession, narcissim, vampirism, mesmerism, seduction, violation - all the still-uncharted psychodynamics of erotic, artistic, and theatrical cathexis ...

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  • 1 year later...

And ... just when I think I am beginning to learn how to sit through and how to think about great and difficult films, I watch this for the first time and come away from it completely baffled.

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