Ingmar Bergman is many things; a visionary, an artist, and a master of his craft. With Persona, I feel I can add one more trait to that ever-growing list: the man is flat out crazy. Considered by Bergman himself to be one of his two most important films (the other being Cries and Whispers), Persona is a dose of insanity with an aftertaste of pure cinema, the purest form there is.
The film opens with a complete cacophony of images, both surrealist and just plain mad. Before you have any handle of what’s going on (if there is anything that is going on), the film drops into its storyline and calmly moves forward as if nothing had just happened. This film is unbelievably stark and minimalist, in visual aesthetic and in content. Even the production value is minimalist, in stark contrast to the normally high production value of a Bergman film. It seems Bergman here wants to deconstruct what makes a film a film, and within the film he seeks to deconstruct what makes a person a person. Questions of identity and meaning are ever-present, and in the case of the two main characters, seem to bleed together like watercolor.
Only a director with enough clout such as Bergman could’ve possibly gotten away with releasing a film like this. This is pure art house form, plain and simple, and I can see how this would influence many a student film or foreign minimalist film made afterwards. Woody Allen was a big fan of Bergman, and many of the same styles and themes would run through his films as well, but it is with Persona that Bergman succeeds at deconstructing everything that makes a Bergman film, or even a film. It is truly an anti-film, and one that is definitely a must see experience. To rephrase a quote from my October review, Persona is definitely a masterpiece, but of what kind is still a mystery.
Arbitrary Rating: 9/10