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Bergman’s ‘Persona’ As A Metaphor For The Lockdown; Revisiting Five Iconic Frames

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There’s news, of a virus, of wet markets where animals are slaughtered, of death. You’re at home, all day. Locked up. Locked down. Your life is unknotted from the real world, but you watch through looking glasses. Phone. Laptop. TV. Window. Curtain. Windscreen. Helmet. They’re apertures and filters; a flood of images vying for your ever-diminishing attention. The outdoors is empty. Still. Cold. De-peopled. Entertainment, religion, porn, music – they help you escape. But they offer no answers, no fix-its. Sleep, wakefulness, dreams, reality melt into a stream of semi-consciousness in your protoplasmic existence. You have to wait. You have to watch.

Waiting, watching, watching, waiting, all you want to do sometimes is reach for the screen. Touch it. Feel it. Hold it. In an attempt to understand which side of your screen is real. Like the boy in that iconic opening montage of Ingmar Bergman’s Persona.

In Bergman’s 1966 classic, Persona, an actress, Elisabet, just stops talking suddenly during rehearsal, and she never talks after that. Her doctor sends her away to a seaside cottage, to live with a nurse, Alma, in, well, self-isolation.

Alma can’t stop talking, tells Elisabet every little thing about her life.

The women start becoming one, with each taking on the personality of the other.

What happens to people living in close company for days on end…

…and who’s watching us from the other side of that screen?

What will happen with a billion of us social distancing? Persona has no easy answers, but points us towards the right questions. Watch it here.

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