Persona (1966)


Link: Persona

Summary: A nurse retreats to the seaside with a patient who refuses to speak, hoping the change of scene will help.  Instead, her seclusion with the mute patient drives her to insanity.

Thoughts: A strange film for director Ingmar Bergman, at least compared to the films of his I’ve seen.  Persona is a very ambiguous self-conscious psychological drama.  I’m really not quite sure what to make of it.  The utter weirdness of it was enough to keep me engaged, but it confused me more than anything else.  I suppose my interpretation is this: the nurse was the one with the problems from the beginning, while the patient just needed a time-out from the world’s chaos.  So when the nurse is confronted with the patient who won’t speak, she projects her own inner turmoil onto the patient, externalizing her inner conflicts and attempting to play them out, destroying her chances of offering the sort of help the patient actually needs, making her own conflicts only that much more impossible to work through.  Overall, it’s a very interesting film, but certainly a bizarre one.  I especially enjoyed the often wild befuddling facial framing, which all somehow worked brilliantly.  And at least it’s all a more solid film than Tarkovsky’s The Mirror.

Wild Strawberries (1957)


Link: Wild Strawberries

Summary: On his way to accepting an honorary degree at an award ceremony, an aging doctor is plagued with nightmares that remind him of his impending death and flashbacks of painful memories that change his opinion of himself.

Thoughts: The story reminded me a bit of Scrooge and A Christmas Carol in that flashbacks give an old man a different perspective on his life.  However, in Wild Strawberries, the main character is rarely present in his flashbacks.  Instead, he witnesses things that happened to other people that change his perspective of them, and in turn himself by their perspective of him.  Does that make sense?  Anyway, the story didn’t quite work for me because we never get to see the main character’s perspective in his own flashbacks.  We get other characters saying he’s cold and judgmental and selfish, but we never see how he actually acts that made them feel this way.  Perhaps these other people are simply interpreting his words wrongly.  For example, I sometimes raise my voice in passionate arguments, and people mistake it for anger.  It’s not; it’s just excitement.  I enjoy a good debate.  Or if you ever mention you’ll pray for someone, a person can take it as some horrible condescending judgmental proclamation.  But prayer is the opposite of condemnation.  So how can we judge whether or not the accusations these characters voice against the doctor are at all fair if we never get to see his actual behavior?

Anyway, that’s really the only thing that didn’t work for me, but it really annoyed me.  The nightmare sequences were great, very eerie, though certainly not horrific.  The film is full of director Ingmar Bergman’s typical fear-of-death theme.  Really, the characters in his film just need to go to confession and they’d be fine, but they’d rather linger on whether or not God and guilt are real, and then they quiver in fear in the terrible shadow of death and what awaits beyond, lest they can get their minds on something else, like issues of love.

Despite the elements that annoyed me, I still enjoyed the film.  I enjoy Bergman’s imagination, even if it blossoms best when his characters are fearing the darkness of death.  Of the small portion of Bergman films I’ve seen, I’d say The Magician is still my favorite, followed by Fanny and Alexander.