Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bergman's Persona: Woman as Vampire

by Daniel Shaw
Daniel Shaw uses psychoanalysis to explore the main female characters of Ingmar Bergman's horror film, Persona.

"While many of Ingmar Bergman's films are extremely painful to watch, none of them (save perhaps for Vargtimmen [Hour of the Wolf, 1968]) contains as many references to the iconography of the horror film as does Persona (Sweden, 1966). Elisabeth Vogler (Liv Ullman), a famous stage actress recovering from a nervous breakdown, is depicted as preying psychologically on her nurse, Alma (Bibi Andersson), and Alma herself has a dream late in the film in which she opens a vein in her arm and invites Elisabeth to suck her blood.
As Kelly Oliver writes, alluding to the enigmatic opening sequence with its images of sacrifice, vampirism, crucifixion and death, "in their exchange, Alma is figured as the sacrificial lamb of the opening visual poem, while figured as the vampire."[1] However, the potentially devastating results of this psychological vampirism are insufficiently appreciated by most critics. Even Oliver claims that, at the end of the film, "they each go back to their respective lives to take up their duties, their personae, as they did before." [2] For Alma, at any rate, that is not likely to be as easy as it sounds.

In what follows, I will argue that the impact on Alma will most certainly be disastrous, perhaps to the point of causing her to commit suicide. Freudian diagnoses of the behaviour of both women, based on parallels to actual case histories recorded in his Collected Works, will serve to substantiate this contention. According to the concept of femininity that emerges from those volumes, women are more likely to take out their aggressions passively, in psychological rather than physical violence. While Nurse Alma acts out her aggression in physical ways, by leaving a piece of glass out for Elisabeth to step on, and by threatening to throw boiling water in her face, Elisabeth's assault is far subtler and (potentially) far more devastating..."

To read article, Click Here: Woman As Vampire

No comments: