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Persona – A Film Criticism

Written by: René Estes, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Ingmar Bergman, 1966 film, Persona is about self and emotional contagions. The ease at which we can absorb others experiences and identity. Bergman films are minimalistic in form. Bergman use of photographic language to advance the narrative. Of course, Elisabet’s nurse has to be a nun.

Bergman dresses the women similarly once they arrive at the beach. In the cleaning of the mushrooms both women are wearing plain tops, Elisabet a white turtleneck and Sister Alma a slightly darker button-down blouse. They both are in straw hats, Elisabet’s lighter in color. They are humming quietly together. Elisabet takes Sister Alma’s hand to inspect it closely, when Sister Alma warns of the harm of comparing hands. This is the first indications that Bergman is suggesting they are becoming one. Even though Sister Alma is the voice for both women, their experiences interweave with each other. Sister Alma wants a family and has ended her pregnancy due to the circumstance she conceived the child. Elisabet was pressured to be a mother in order to be a full woman she must bear a child, according to social norms and expectation.

Bergman uses camera techniques to remind the audience this is a fantasy. His insertion of the camera, the internal elements of the projector and the burning of the film halfway through is a reminder to the audience this is a film not reality.

Noël Carrol states in his article on Kraucauer that “What directs our attention the photographic elements of film are its capacity to fulfill a contingently, historically situated function – the task of redeeming physical reality. The approved use of film to record and reveal physical reality in terms of the upstaged, the indeterminate, the fortuitous, and endlessness down not follow here from film’s putative status as essentially photographic, but from the fact that the primary role or value of film in our time is to function in a way that redeems physical reality.”

“The core of the historical/cultural argument goes like this:

  1. Due to the rise of science, modern society is alienated from the physical world and the experience of particularity.

  2. If modern society is alienated from the physical world and the experience of particularity, then, all things being equal, any medium that can relieve that alienation should be used in a way that will enable it to do so.”

  3. Film can relieve alienation from the physical world and the experience of particularity.

  4. If film is to relieve the alienation from the physical world and the experience of particularity, then it must be used in such a way that its photographic element and its affinities are emphasized. René Estes 2

  5. Therefore, film must emphasize its photographic element and its basic affinities (the unstaged, the fortuitous, the indeterminate, and endlessness.)”

“The argument can then be continued, arguing that the technical properties and narrative structures of film should be subordinated to the purpose of the photographic elements in order to fulfill the pressing social role of film – the redemption of physical reality for people lost in scientific abstraction.” (Carroll, 297)

Bergman reminds us this is a film using properties of technology to build this fantasy. The insertion of the film technology confirms Kracauer’s theory on the alienation that technology plays in our lives. The narrative is an interweaving of both connection between the woman and the alienation of the self. He doesn’t state each side of the argument clearly, one side does not stand out above the other, and they are both present. Yet, Bergman’s over all purpose is to tell how we each have internal lives, public lives and the lives we share with others. Through these relationships we can become alienated from ourselves.

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René Estes, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Visionary, filmmaker, serial entrepreneurial with 15 years’ experience in strategic and business development. A result-orientated entrepreneurial with a strong background in the human condition, how it translates to film and the healing arts. Recognized for collaborative leadership style, proactive approach, and keen ability to translate complex operational concepts into tangible action plans effectively. A proven leader with a strong executive presence, capable of blending big-picture viewpoints with tactical considerations to inspire, build trust, and achieve record growth.



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