Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Persona Redux

The notion of an actress who refuses to speak might seem like a paradoxical premise for a movie. It’s even more so since the character in question Elizabet Vogler (Liv Ullmann) in Bergman’s Persona, currently in revival at Film Forum, is not suffering from any identifiable physical or mental disabilities (for instance aphasia or psychosis). In one of the most disturbing scenes of the film her caregiver, Alma (Bibi Andersson), who has poured her heart out to her and been cruely betrayed in the process, pleads with her to talk. When you contemplate the choreography it seems oddly out of kilter. Don’t actresses and artists give of themselves? Isn’t a certain degree of forthcomingness their lingua franca? The answer is rendered in the filmmaker’s own creation. Elisabet is filled with a steely cold resolve. Her acting may have stopped at the moment when she refused to continue her Electra, the play that's interrupted in medias res, but everything that has made her what she is, the imperturbable resolve, the lack of compromise now is epitomized by her silence. Humanism is not a good category in which to place this kind of artistic personality. The novelist David (Gunnar Bjornstrand) in Through a Glass Darkly reveals a similar detachment in his attitude towards his schizophrenic daughter whose decline he studies and records. The artist may use others to achieve his or her aims (like the director himself), but the eleemosynary impulse is not at the heart of such ambition.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.