Tom’s Review: PERSONA

This is STRIKE A POSE!!! Films first Guest Review by our good friend Thomas England, also known in the forums as Tom. Tom loves watching classic, indie, and cult films, and today we’ve got a big treat for our readers- an introduction to one film maker’s amazing selection of work.

Here’s his review for Ingmar Bergman’s PERSONA:

Lately I have been renting and watching a lot of classics, in sort of a “quest” to find more inspiration for my own creative ingenuity, as well as for substance to contribute to a college film club I help manage. I have been trying to watch genres ranging from old cult classics to French new wave flicks as well as various indie titles. Many of these have been downers for me- I either found them to be somewhat boring or pretentious; trash that only succeeded in making me angry. I don’t like watching movies that blatantly try and go out of their way to prove how better they are than you. I am mainly talking about Jean Luc Godard’s French New Wave films, which if you haven’t heard of him, then good- leave it that way, and stay clear from anything by him.

Biased and arrogant opinions about French film making aside, the “classics” that I saw were interesting but didn’t do anything for me at the time, many of which seemed like movies I would have to re-watch later on. There were a couple exceptions. One I have run into is Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. Just last week I finished watching his 1966 psychological thriller Persona, and I must say I definitely found what I was looking for with this movie. It was beautifully shot and the story was well told.

The movie was about a nurse named Alma (Bibi Anderson), who was put in charge of helping to rehabilitate a well known actress named Elisabeth (Liv Ullman) who, although seeming physically fine, will not talk to anyone. I was left constantly guessing why she is acting this way. The opening sequence is a montage of serial imagery, where the clues for answering this question begin. What was shown in the opening sequence were things ranging from a film projector to a child trapped in an all white room with a large human face watching him from behind one of the transparent walls.

One of the more powerful scenes was when the Elisabeth was watching the news in her hospital room, and sees the broadcast of the forever infamous Saigon monk burning himself alive in Vietnam. Most important was the reaction and facial responses expressed by the actress to that sort of stimuli. This sort of thing helps to give clues about what is actually going on, but by the end it will be made clear to you that you’re just as clueless as the nurse trying to help the young actress, and understand why the film is called what it is. It is important to pay close attention to the imagery throughout the movie, because the story is primarily told through its imagery, with dialog coming in second (though it’s still important). For those who are fans of David Lynch you would be well accustomed to it- a very dark and dreary experience that at times has a very surreal feel to it.

In the end this was just the inspiration I needed! I have seen two other films by Ingmar Bergman: The Seventh Seal and The Wild Strawberries, both of which were great and completely different experiences. I recommend anyone reading this to pick this one up if they can find it- it’s not very long, but if you watch this and find it to be your type of movie as I did, then definitely pick up the other Bergman movies I just listed. Even so, out of all of the three Bergman Movies that I have seen so far, this one takes the gold.

Tom’s an active member of the Future Film Makers Club, leading the way for the newer members as Vice President, and you might even remember his amazing performance in the comedic masterpiece, Man of Action.

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  • This has nothing to do with the article but have you seen The Conversation? If not go out and watch it, it is Francis Ford Coppola’s most overlooked film and probably his best.

  • Tom

    i couldn’t agree more, i watched the conversation for the first time when i was taking a film class during my senior year of high school. personally i still think Apocalypse now is Francis Ford Coppola’s best film, but The Conversation is well up there.