I watched Bergman’s Persona last night. I’d started reading this Sontag essay about it, then decided to see it first.
While I was watching it, I noticed that I was squinting and sitting the way I squint and sit when I’m reading a book. Because of its imagery and monologous nature, I felt like I was reading a book.
It’s a film about two women: one, an actor who has refused to speak, the other, her nurse. It was really sexy, despite the fact that there was no overt erotica between them.
It’s mostly focused on doubles, but it’s also a film about voyeurism, and in addressing our need to possess what we “study,” what we watch, it turns voyeurism on its head. In one scene, the mute woman rises from the bottom of the frame and takes a photograph of us. In another, the nurse tells her about two peeping toms who’d spied on her and another woman while they were sunbathing. The women end up “raping” the peeping toms. It’s as though someone put voyeurism itself in front of a mirror.
In one of my favorite scenes, the nurse tells the mute woman they could be each other. But you couldn’t fit, she tells the actress, “your spirit is too big: it would stick out all over the place.”