Friday, January 7, 2011

Graphic Girl-on-Girl Crisis: Realism and Fantasy in Ingmar Bergman's Persona

Self-realization is not always Girl, Interrupted glamour.  In Ingmar Bergman's 1966 psycho-drama classic Persona, two women in the depths of identity crisis face life on the harsh borders of the real and the fantastic.  

Elisabet Vogler (Liv Ullmann), a hospitalized actress-turned-mute, and Sister Alma (Bibi Andersson), the nurse in charge, share a secluded, seaside cottage.  While Vogler's condition seems to improve, sweet Sister Alma spirals into jealousy and psychosis.  She begins to fantasize about herself encompassing the actress's identity as her own. 

The genius in this work lies in Bergman's mastery of audience diasassociation.  Using distancing devices like the film's frame, a torrent of shocking images (sheep viscera, an erect penis), the audience's view of reality becomes as distorted as Alma's.  Persona is a classic because it defies interpretation.  After nearly 50 years, analysts and critics like me are still puzzling over its complexity.

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