Persona. April 11, 2020

Another revisit to a movie that I first watched when I was too young to possibly understand the subject. And given how much Persona has been written about and debated, I know I don’t truly understand it now either. So, just a few words about two themes. I loved following the way the two characters/personalities blend together and move apart and how the act of film-making and film-viewing are brought into the mix. The key scenee happens more or less halfway through the movie. Alma is angry that Elisabet has been observing and analyzing her, and leaves a shard of glass on the floor for Elisabet to step on, but Elisabet misses it twice. Alma leaves the scene, and Elisabet immediately steps on it. Then the movie itself seems to disintegrate, through an animation of burning celluloid.

Observing is a recurring theme: ostensibly, Alma is doing it to Elisabet, but then it turns out to be the other way around. Alma relates a story of an orgy at the beach that starts with two boys observing her and a woman she had just met sunbathe in the nude. There are several scenes that have characters looking directly into the camera (= the viewer).

But observing can’t be a passive action here, as Elisabet finds in the scene, and as we find as the movie falls apart, and the rest of the movie is nothing like what we’ve seen prior, full of dreamlike sequences and the two characters feel more different sides of a single person.