Welcome to The Best Movies I’ve Never Seen! This is the part of the blog where I work my way through 100 films I’ve never seen that are generally considered to be great. You’re invited to watch along with me if you can find a copy or find it streaming. So grab some popcorn and let’s get started!
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Quick synopsis… An actress recovering from a breakdown exercises a strange hold over her nurse.
Can I be honest for a moment? Of course I can. I haven’t been looking forward to this one. In fact… there are a lot of these Criterion Collection films that I haven’t looked forward to. It’s not necessarily because I think I won’t like them. It’s mostly that I think I won’t get them.
You’ve got these films that have been made throughout history that are good simply because they’re genuinely good. The acting is great. The direction is great. The screenplay is great…
Then you have the ones that fall into the category of Persona. Movies that are considered great because they’ve been elevated to an artistic level that is way above my pay grade.
So to anyone out there who went to film school or took classes in college focusing on classic cinema and why certain films are more art than entertainment, please take it easy on me. And remember that film is art and art is subjective.
And right away, as the movie begins, I’m presented with all this disturbing imagery (super close-up of a spider, a sheep being killed and gutted, etc.) and I have no doubt that the intellectual elite will have some explanation for every frame of film being shown. My only thought? “What the eff am I watching?!”
Seriously… just getting to the opening credits and I’m a little afraid that this thing will give me nightmares. And I don’t get nightmares!
Alma is a nurse who is assigned to take care of Elisabet, an actress who has inexplicably stopped speaking or moving, though she is physically capable of both. Eventually, it’s decided that Elizabet may have an easier time recovering from whatever it is that’s bothering her if they move her to a cottage by the sea.
Y’all… I am descending into madness. I don’t understand the plot of this thing at all. Maybe that’s the point? Maybe it’s all supposed to be symbolic of something and I just don’t get it. It’s like that high school literature class where we’d read classics like The Scarlet Letter or Moby Dick or The Crucible and it always seemed that the author was more interested in hiding symbolic imagery in the subtext than in telling the actual story. Why can’t a book just be a book for entertainment’s sake? Why can’t a movie just be a movie for entertainment’s sake?
I’m sorry… I know why I don’t enjoy movies like this. Because I watch movies as an escape. I want to be entertained. I’m fine with movies that make me think. I’m fine with movies that contain symbolism. But there still has to be an entertaining story that I can follow. When I think of movies like that, The Matrix or Inception come to mind. But, to me, Persona is a jumble of brilliance that I just cannot wrap my head around.
I even tried reading through the Wikipedia article on this film, which explains Persona‘s themes in some detail. Feel free to navigate over there to read it for yourself. I won’t regurgitate what it says here. Except to say that Persona is often considered Bergman’s magnum opus. I know I have at least one other of his films on this list at some point. I’m not sure I can honestly say I’m looking forward to that one either.
Now, having seen Persona, it ranks at 2,245 out of 2,264 movies on my personal Flickchart list.
Have you ever seen Ingmar Bergman’s Persona? Did you enjoy it? Did you understand it? Were you offended by the fact that I just… didn’t? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments!