The Essential Movie Library #20: Persona (1966) - The Culture Files Blog - Los Angeles magazine
 
 

The Essential Movie Library #20: Persona (1966)

A movie preoccupied with the thin membrane of madness

The meta-framing of Scandinavian writer-director Ingmar Bergman’s story about two women (Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann) locked in a symbiotically destructive relationship now looks familiar, and the theme of duality at the story’s center would go on to inform notable subsequent work by notable subsequent directors (see Essential Movie Library #18). Otherwise Persona remains radical by today’s standard let alone that of half a century ago, and in fact only in the last decade have many Americans seen on DVD the film in its original form, which includes Andersson’s midnight monolog about a beachside foursome with another girl and two boys—more startlingly erotic than any more explicit sex scene in any more contemporary picture. 

Along with Federico Fellini, Bergman defined world cinema in the minds of world audiences in the mid-1960s, savagely fracturing the dream-language of film that Fellini made lyrically coherent. As much as Persona is preoccupied with the thin membrane of madness between its two actresses, it’s also about the way that art tries, and usually fails, to mediate the spectacular cruelties of life: Burning Buddhist monks protesting the American presence in Vietnam enflame the TV news that Ullmann watches in mute horror. Bergman later said that Persona was as far as he could go and he was right; his own movies that followed (like 1972’s Cries and Whispers) were variations, raising psychosis to a more hysterical pitch. But if he could go no further, it was all that everyone else could do to keep up.   

Read them all:
The Essential Movie Library #19: The Shop Around the Corner
The Essential Movie Library #18: Lost Highway
The Essential Movie Library #17: Tokyo Story
The Essential Movie Library #16: 8 1/2

The Essential Movie Library #15: City Lights
The Essential Movie Library #14: Seven Samurai
The Essential Movie Library #13: Lawrence of Arabia
The Essential Movie Library #12: Citizen Kane
The Essential Movie Library #11: Jules and Jim
The Essential Movie Library #10: My Darling Clementine
The Essential Movie Library #9: Double Indemnity
The Essential Movie Library #8: That Obscure Object of Desire
The Essential Movie Library #7: 2001: A Space Odyssey
The Essential Movie Library #6: Casablanca
The Essential Movie Library #5: The Lady Eve
The Essential Movie Library #4: The Third Man
The Essential Movie Library #3: The Passion of Joan of Arc
The Essential Movie Library #2: Vertigo
The Essential Movie Library #1: The Godfather Trilogy

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