By Anna

With unaccounted for scenes of silent films—skeletons, a nail being driven into a hand—is where Persona begins and ends.

Its middle is a story about a stage actress, Elisabeth, who quits speaking in the middle of a performance driven to silence apparently by nothing. Her psychiatric evaluation doesn’t suggest much, so she goes to live in her summer home isolated with only her nurse, Alma. Director Ingmar Bergman, through time and space, or lack of space between Alma and Elisabeth, slowly reveals it is Alma who is unhappy and in need of care. Elisabeth finds happiness or something like it, in silence and Alma only feels unhappiness in Elisabeth’s silence.

Truth of what has most deeply affected these women reveals itself through Alma’s monologues and one-sided conversations with Elisabeth. Both are tormented by the past, the horrors of the world, and each other, just as Bergman’s lack of clarity between reality and dreams torments the viewer.

Ebert critiques the film literally, surmising that “most of what we think of as ‘ourselves’ is not direct experience of the world, but a mental broadcast made of ideas, memories, media input, other people, jobs, roles, duties, lusts, hopes, fears.” Alma is not strong enough to be herself. Though Ebert’s criticism is not far off to be supposed, what is to be said of Bergman’s extreme pessimism of one’s persona?

If we are not ourselves, but projections of other things, where is the hope? Bergman leaves us without a hopeful answer. His film is great and critics continue to come back to it for its value in critiquing society and women.

But its hopelessness—that any one of us will only have one or two truly happy experiences in our lives is bleaker than reality.

Yet Elisabeth and most of us do choose to live on, not wanting to forever live in a façade, but more so not wanting to be pained in life or in death.

Quick Reviews from the movies I saw this week:

Pierrot le Fou

What a beautiful and thought provoking film Jean-Luc Godard gives us once again. Pierrot, or Ferdinand as he prefers, lapses into wildness getting caught up in drug and gun running with a cute little thing whose intellect is solely portrayed through love songs. Their story is wonderfully tragic with excellent Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina starring it couldn’t be better. Mostly we watch them live on the fringes of society, getting fed up with one another and doing the insanely unexpected—it’ll surprise you.

Wall Street

Prepping for what some believe will be Michael Douglas’ next Oscar winning performance, I watched his previous Oscar winning performance. He’s great and believable as a sleek Wall Street inside investor and delivers some of the best lines ever written for a movie. “The allusion has become real” and “I’ll talk at ya,” which, had I known in my youth, is most likely where my stockbroker dad got his signature conversation ending phrase. It’s an interesting piece of work, though pretty predictable, but it’s not a film you watch to be surprised, it’s one you watch to be moved by truth and impressed by the power and magnitude of Wall Street’s elite, whether that’s good or bad.

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