Having no time over this Xmas period to read Elsaesser, Sontag, Strick and the many other essays, reviews about Persona I decided to put down a few notes here and hope that I will be able to elaborate some other time. Although the film is not about an older woman I believe that my interpretation depends on my old woman point of view.
A few weeks ago a friend asked if I would be interested to see the film again with her. We saw it with another friend and I viewed it again two weeks later with yet another friend.
From the first occasion, just under 20 years ago, all I can remember is the beauty of the images and my utter confusion/puzzlement about what the film was saying. On the second viewing with the two friends a sudden flash of understanding occurred to me when Alma the nurse says to the psychiatrist: “I think I should refuse the job… she should have a nurse who’s old and more experienced …experience in life”. To me it seems to be an appeal to look at the film with an old woman’s perspective. Somehow I decided not to ignore the references to film making, to death and childhood in the prologue and found a key that made the middle part of the film very clear to me. I looked at the film as suggested by the hints in the montage of the prologue as about the filmmaker’s struggle to make sense of his life between childhood and near death.
From then on I did not look at Alma and Elisabet as two women but I saw Alma as representing life experiences expressed openly and transformed into art and Elisabet, the man who suddenly finds the transformation of his experiences into art meaningless, not worth talking about and not representing his inner being. Seen in this way every frame, sequence lose their ambiguity and acquire a new depth.
Of course a scene by scene analysis is needed to shore up my argument but this explanation does not detract from the enthralling quality of this film. The third time I saw it I still felt very emotionally involved by the images, the lighting, the power of the relationship between the two ways of being.
By an extraordinary coincidence, after I expressed my point of view to my friends, I saw The Lady in the Van where Alan Bennet is represented in two different bodies by the same actor : the detached writer who exploits the experiences of others and the living man who gets involved with others.