Quick recap: Netflix told me that this was a story about a nurse who cares for an actress who is unable to speak anymore. The two move to a summer cottage so that the actress can recuperate and in the process, the two women form a bond. Nice try, Netflix, but you aren’t tricking me that easily.
Fun (?) fact: The opening sequence features among other things, a cartoon shown upside down, A GIANT SPIDER, a lamb being slaughtered and Jesus crucified. It was all very weird and unsettling to me,but it turns out all the images reference other Ingmar Bergman films.
My thoughts: This is my second Bergman film, which pushes me ever closer to the line of pretentiousness. Not too close however, because I can’t understand a damn thing from either movie without spending a couple of hours researching what the hell I just watched. It makes me feel like I’m back in high school, looking up the meaning of almost every line in a Shakespeare play on Sparknotes and being so proud of myself for finally getting it. And then a minute later regret overcomes me and the whole piece of work has been cheapened just a little.
Just like Winter Light, I loved how stylized and simple everything is. The film was shot in black in white and the characters also wear dark and light clothing. Watching the two converse (the actress couldn’t talk so it was just the nurse talking) was like watching a play where the focus is on nothing else but the characters. In some ways it made the film easier to identify with but in other ways, it just made everything seem significant. Why was Elisabet perched on that rock? What does that rock stand for? Alma cuts her left wrist, not her right. What could it mean???
The idea of Persona is an interesting one. It certainly drew me in more than Winter Light did. In the beginning of the film Alma is seen as the stronger of the two since Elisabet is unable to speak or do much. As the two become closer at the summer cottage, Alma starts to divulge some dark secrets, including an abortion she had after sex with a couple of underage boys. It’s at this point that Elisabet becomes the sane one. After a night of drinking, Alma observes how much alike she and Elisabet are, which references the title of the film and the idea that we see ourselves in others, but not always in the best way. The most mind blowing scene is when Alma confronts Elisabet about her past and a son that was born after failed abortion attempts. Elisabet’s face becomes more and more pained as Alma continues and then in one shot, it appears as if the women’s faces have merged together.The story could easily be Alma’s. The realization horrifies her as she can truly see who she is and so Alma is finally able to escape.
Final review: 4/5. I can see myself watching this again, this time paying more attention to detail.
Up next: The Burmese Harp