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introduction to literature assignment introduction to literature assignment Document Transcript

  • LIM WEI YE BRYN (071487C17) TUTORIAL GROUP 17 HL101 ASSIGNMENT 2 ‘Bergman’s subject is not “being” as such but the moral world – ourselves as human beings in the twentieth century: what is the deepest and most true essential about us, and what meaning we can find for our lives in the face of this truth’ (Jesse Kalin) Discuss this view in relation to both ‘Waiting for Godot’ and ‘Persona’, making sure that you clearly indicate what you consider to be the film’s dominant theme. Looking beyond mind-boggling plot and horrific imagery reveals an in-depth theme about the human perception of “self” that, in my opinion, director Ingmar Bergman was trying the express in his 1966 film, Persona. In his ingenious selection of iconic images, use of close up shots on her actresses and intriguing camera angles, Bergman unravels the inner nature of humans who constantly seeks to fulfill the innate desire to assume a role in order to define one self. It seems to dispute that no human can escape from assuming roles in this society. In fact, the blueprint of our human society is derived from the many roles each individual naturally and instinctive assumes. According to the American psychologist Carl Rogers, 1‘self is a social product, developing out of interpersonal relationships and striving for consistency’ and ‘there is a basic human need for positive regard both from others and from oneself’. The concept of one’s self is not instinctive but a ‘social product’ nurtured through various experiences and the people around them. These experiences and perception of others on self impresses itself onto the individual forming the “inner self”. Jesse Kalin’s 2Introduction to the Geography of the Soul states in his opening statement that the film is a ‘reduction’ of the human soul in its quintessential form, ‘a fundamental examination of all being at its most elemental level’. A myriad of instances in the film examines the fusion of these aspects. 1 Purkey, W. (1988). An Overview of Self-Concept Theory for Counselors. ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Personnel Services, Ann Arbor, Mich. (An ERIC/CAPS Digest: ED304630) 2 Excerpt from Jesse Kalin’s Introduction to the Geography of the Soul “Bergman’s “reduction” reveals our lives as moral and spiritual beings to be constituted by six fundamental kinds of experience and their interrelationships. These occur throughout Bergman’s films in many variations and combinations. Sometimes all are present, sometimes only a few. They are the seminal moments of judgment, abandonment, passion, turning, shame, and vision. Together they delineate the kind of journey life is and the kind of road it must travel." 1
  • LIM WEI YE BRYN (071487C17) TUTORIAL GROUP 17 Elizabeth’s strong spirit is revealed by her silence, in her desire to withdraw herself from the world (abandonment). Her occupation as a stage actress would also imply that she is probably charismatic and narcissistic in her ways. In comparison, it is probable that Alma is weaker in spirit. In their solitude stay the psychiatrist’s summerhouse, Alma develops a queer attachment to Elizabeth. In Elizabeth’s insistence to remain silent, Alma fills the silence with her incessant talking, leading to her to divulge much of her personal secrets. Based on her shameful account on the orgy at the beach (shame), it can be said that she is easily influenced. In revealing her secrets, Alma opens herself up to be vulnerable and insecure in the face of the scutinising Elizabeth. Through Alma’s monologue, her admiration for Elizabeth as a stage actress was revealed. Elizabeth even mentioned in her letter that Alma is ‘a little in love with her’ (passion). At that juncture, there is a reversal of roles between Elizabeth and Alma. Elizabeth, the supposed patient, has now taken on the role of a caregiver to Alma, who in her inexperience as a nurse has fallen prey with her excessive talking (turning). It was Alma’s hope that through her sharing of experience and friendship that Elizabeth would eventually speak. Instead of taking on the “inferior” role of a patient, Elizabeth props herself superior (in her innate instinct to survive) by become a “doctor” and analyzing Alma (judgement). The vulnerability of Alma then seeks transference onto Elizabeth whom she admires. She desperate seeks to redefine herself in light of her insecurities. Previously, her role as a nurse, in its strict nature, seem to provide for Alma a security blanket, allowing her to “atone for her sins” committed during the orgy (shame). However, it is interesting to note that, even though Elizabeth’s silence was so that she may withdraw from the world, yet inevitably she had to assume the role of a patient, and later as a “doctor”. It seems obvious that Elizabeth, by making use of Alma and her assumption of a superior persona, would aid her in her recovery process. Juxatposing with Samuel Beckket’s Waiting For Godot, we would be able to see a similar theme surfacing from the seemingly meaningless play. By the introduction of the main characters in pairs, the role of each individual in the pair seem to help define and substantiate the other individual’s person and existence, or the lack of it. The noteworthy character in this aspect is Vladimir. Throughout the play, he would 2
  • LIM WEI YE BRYN (071487C17) TUTORIAL GROUP 17 provide the audience with snippets of past events that happened between Estragon and him. Strangely, no other characters would seem to be able to remember them. This is so even when the scene had been acted out earlier in the play before the audience. This sets the audience back to question if the event really happened, or it was just a figment of Vladimir’s (or the audience’s) perception. Without the affirmation of the people that surround Vladimir, despite his insistence of the reality of the event, he is unable to be sure of himself or his perception. Another instance in this play that illustrates this aspect is when Pozzo was repeatedly questioned by Vladimir if he wanted to ‘get rid’ of Lucky. Pozzo’s initial response of filled with malice, saying that it is better to kill such creatures (Lucky) instead of kicking them away. In Lucky’s despair, Pozzo remembers how important Lucky was to him. And when questioned again if his desire was to get rid of Lucky, Pozzo is thrown in doubt and confusion to the point of breaking. It is only when Vladimir reaffirms to Estragon that Pozzo’s need for Lucky that Pozzo returns “more and more to his old self”. Lucky defines Pozzo. His existence affirms Pozzo’s existence and role as his master and companion. Without that definition, Pozzo loses himself beyond control. The definition of an individual’s non-physical individual self is shaped inevitably by mixture of societal norms, beliefs, culture, our incessant desire to assume many roles in society and also by the people that surround us. The formula of an individual self is in my opinion the proposal of Bergman’s Persona. 3 View slide