Monday, July 30, 2007

Another Kind of Persona

Given how much this blog and my new book play with the concept of persona, it should come as no surprise that my current work in progress, Foreign Film (Immobilité), is partly influenced by Ingmar Bergman's classic film Persona. Bergman has just passed away at the age of 89:
The idea for "Persona" came to him after seeing his friend Andersson sunning next to Ullmann, a Norwegian actress who became Mr. Bergman's companion and muse for many years. Struck by the resemblance of the two actresses, Mr. Bergman decided "it would be wonderful to write something about two people who lose their identities in each other."
This idea of "two people who lose their identities in each other" is not exactly what happens in Immobilité, and there is actually an invisible, third persona that infects the narrative's movement. Also, there is more to Bergman's "Persona" narrative than "losing identity" and in my new work, what at first looks like "losing sight of oneself" becomes part of a longer process where one actually finds oneself (albeit as as a hauntological flux persona, that is, a simultaneous and continuous fusion of becoming marked by what one has already become).

In my second novel, Sexual Blood, the protagonist Mal (short for Maldoror but also Male), is identified on the first page as a figure who wants to "become woman." In GRAMMATRON, Cynthia becomes Ms. A and Abe Golam becomes too many others to even begin listing them all here. The cast of personas in PHON:E:ME (referred to as sonoluminiscent characters) are quick-change artists whose personalities seep into one another. Interesting to me is the fact that I only viewed Persona after having created these works.

Instead of multiple personality disorder in the traditional psychological interpretation of that term, a lot of the figures who appear in my work explore (and do not suffer from) Multiple Persona Becoming. Is it dangerous? This is what Bergman, in some of his films, investigated -- and so am I.

Bergman's "ascetic visuals, intense close-ups and limited dialogue" are hard not to be influenced by if your are at all interested in developing a more philosophically rendered and truly independent narrative art beyond cinema (and beyond "independent filmmaking" per se).

He once said:
The people in my films are exactly like myself [...] Mostly they're body, with a little hollow for the soul.
Of course, the emotional dramas he directed betray these rare self-interpretations and point toward a deeper interior conflict that sometimes only an image can portray. For real body personas minus the theatrical drama, we could turn to obliterature, especially the early nouveau roman work of my old teacher Alain Robbe-Grillet. Some of Robbe-Grillet's films, like L'Immortelle, investigated the imaginary "body persona" as hallucinated by L'Invisible.

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