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Bergman’s “Persona” and Donen’s “Singin’ in the Rain” Essay

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Updated: Dec 1st, 2021

Introduction

There are some movies which are the stepping stones to the development of international movies. The movies “Persona” and “Singin’ in the rain” are counted in the category of such movies. Both these movies are art films which are uniquely presented in the way of cause and effect chain, narrative organization, arbitrary beginnings and ends, ambiguity at the beginning etc. This paper presents the narration of classical movies with special reference to “Persona” and “Singin’ in the rain.” Finally, it presents the comparison and contrast of both films in the narration of each film by way of possible issues to look at, including range of knowledge, depth of knowledge, and causality. The use of sound in “Singin’ in the Rain” is paying attention to all of its acoustic properties, categories and dimensions. The sound is used to comedy, romance, suspense, excitement and realism. Two scenes are chosen to analyze the use of sound in the movie. Then the paper presents comparison between “Singin’ in the Rain” and other films.

“Persona” is an art film that links a number of various themes together which are of great relevance and the main plot of the movie is the encounter between two ladies. It was directed by Ingmar Bergman in 1966. The two important characters of the movie are Elisabeth, the actress who has become a mute and Alma whose role is of a nurse who is in-charge of taking care of Elisabeth. “Figuratively, Elisabeth Vogler, having played the role of celebrity, wife, and mother, has decided to abandon her persona and walk off the stage. A variation on the idea of duality provides an essential ingredient to the plot development.” (Ingmar Bergman: Persona, 1996).

It is a classical narrative movie because the story can occur in life, the time which is given in this movie is chronological, there is sequence of scenes like a flow of events or the connection between the cause and effects, the last part of the movie explains whatever told in the film and the relation between the different independent scenes and also the film starts with unusual happenings. There are main characteristics in a classical narrative movie and all these features are reflected in the movie. Some different slides are being displayed at the start of the movie, such as a chase from a slapstick silent movie, a penis, a nail being hammered into the palm of a hand, an immolation of Buddhist monk, and assorted dead bodies in a morgue and these displays do not reveal the exact meaning at the time even though it brings the connection of thought at the end of the part. The film begins with darkness but it changes the way to light which means that there is a chronological movement in the movie. There is a protagonist in the movie Alma who is a nurse in-charge of a patient who is mute. The two persons develop the plot to the depiction of human cruelty and identity.

Persona” synopsis

The film “Persona” is a challenging and experimental movie in 20th century and it combines three elements such as drama, visual poetry and modern psychology.. “Bergman uses minimal composition and extremely tight close-ups to illustrate the theme of psychological deconstruction. Note the prevalent use of single camera shots throughout the duration of a scene. The lack of camera movement forces us to study the characters’ faces. Persona, after all, as the title suggests, is not about who the person actually is, but the different identities, or facades, that the person projects.” (Ingmar Bergman: Persona, 1996).

The two protagonists of the story are Alma and Elisabeth. Elisabeth is a successful actress who stopped speaking to get rid of life realities. Alma is a nurse who takes care of Elisabeth. Having not found any problem with Elisabeth, the psychiatrist sent her with Alma to a cottage on the sea shore. One day evening Alma shared with Elisabeth her sexual experience she had in her life and its consequences. At once, Alma found some letters written by Elisabeth pointing that the actress is seeing her as an amusing study. Having understood this fact their relationship became in flux and they started to wound each other. Before this incidence, Alma was thinking that her identity merges with Elisabeth’s identity but when Alma becomes conscious on this fact both of them come up with the psychological problems. “The themes of experience, children, and romantic relationships take on very different meanings for the two women. Alma seems to covet what Elisabeth has, but she has deliberately chosen other paths. Note the monologue that is shown twice: one showing a close-up of Alma, and the other of Elisabeth. It is a scene about regret, frustration, and denial. The effect illustrates how different, and yet similar, these two women are… and how cruel and destructive the human will can be.” (Ingmar Bergman: Persona, 1996).

Singin’ in the Rain”

The movie “Singin’ in the rain” was directed by Gene Kelly and it was released in 1952. It is an innovative film looked at new horizon of music, dance, color and spectacle. It is a movie that gives importance for romance and songs. The music and romance are the two important aspects of the movie. The music in the film brings emotion in the movie. That is the reason why the sound tracks became very popular in the movie. There is musical sequence in the movie and it evokes emotional experience. Every scene in the movie has an impact of the actor’s development in the movie and the romance in the movie is also straight forward and very attractive. This experience goes beyond the characters in the film. In most of the movies, the experience of romance ends with the actor and actress but here it is different and it does not restrict to that.

“Persona” and “Singin’ in the Rain” are movies that can be categorized as art movies. More often, art films lack large support, high budget but it will be creative and innovative in the ideas that are expressed through the movie. It will show justice to the story of the movie and it will bring a new thought in the film. In that way both movies “Persona” and “Singin’ in the rain” take a new horizon of vision; so these can be called as art movies.

Comparison between “Persona” and “Singin’ in the Rain”

The characteristics of art film can be seen from the sequence of cause-effect chain, realism and authorial expressivity, one character tells the story or autobiography to another one, organization in the narration, ambiguity, arbitrary beginnings and endings, difficulty in assembling the story from the plot, psychological complexity and internalized motivation. The comparison between these two films is observed from these characteristics. The cause and effect chain is the main attraction of these two movies. The theme of ‘Persona’ is developed from the plot of closeness between Alma who is a nurse in charge of Elisabeth who is a mute. So also, the second movie “Singin’ in the rain” is evolved from the element of romance. Creativity and innovation are visible in both these movies. It would challenge the existing realities of the time. “Persona” is a movie, the story of which may occur in the real life. “Singin’ in the rain” is also a creative film which gives importance for romance. A narrative organization can be seen in both the movies. There is ambiguity at the beginning of both movies, but it gets clarified in the end. So also, there is difficulty in assembling the story from the plot in between the play of the movie. Both movies are challenging and innovative. These were the experimental movies that helped to the development of the movies globally.

Contrast between” Persona” and “Singin’ in the rain”

“Singin’ in the rain” is highly musical while “Persona” is not a musically important movie. “Singin’ in the rain” is a movie of combination of music, dance and sound. But “Persona” is a highly thematic movie which is evolved form a psychological complexity. The sequence of the movie “Persona” is passive while that of the movie “Singin’ in the rain” is active from one scene to the other.

Use of sound in “Singin’ in the rain”

The movie “Singin’ in the rain” was released in 1952. That was the time when world began to experience shift from silent movies to talking movies. This is a musical comedy movie directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen.

Song sequences have great role in the movie. Effort of Kelly to take the theme of the story and the songs together was a successful one. Greatest thing with the success of the film is the accurate use of sound, even though it was created in a time when the early experiments with sound techniques were going on. Usage of original sound equipments adds more attractiveness to the film especially in dance and song sequences.

Functions sound in “Singin’ in the rain”

The movie narrates the incidents in the life of Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly), a silent movie actor. His relations with Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) and Selden (Debbie Reynolds) are one of the main focuses of the movie. Though Don is being recognized as in love with Lina, he doesn’t want to be in such a relation with her because of her brainless behavior. In real life, he loves Selden. Use of sound in the sequences when Don and Lina appear together reflects the emotional conflicts that happen in the mind of Don.

“Singin’ in the rain” is such a movie that deals with the life of both the characters and another story that related with the introduction of talking cinema. So, there are two sides for this movie. On one side it narrates the story of Hollywood movie celebrities and on the other side it is a story of beginning of sound era in cinema. In the first side, sound is used as a medium to convey the emotions of characters to the audience. In the second context, sound itself is a character in the movie. The technique of sound was an unfamiliar thing for cinema until the first talking movie was presented. The great success of the movie is the brilliant usage of sound for fulfilling these two entirely different tasks.

Music and songs have great importance in the movie. Sound is mixed with the song sequences accurately in order to keep the touch of entertainment. The visualization of song ‘Make ‘em Laugh’ is an example for such a brilliant use of sound. Music of this song is very dynamic while sound effects add more attractiveness to it. Sound has been mixed carefully in the sequences which includes the important dialogues which take place between characters.

Certain contents in the story cannot be visualized completely. In those scenes sound plays a great role to complete the intention of the director. Appropriate use of music with dialogues is an example for this. The emotions in the mind of characters cannot be expressed completely by vocal conversation, but use of correct background score do.

Effectiveness of sound is one of the main things that keep continuity between the shots from the beginning of the movie itself. As the movie deals with the life of a number of characters, nature of the shots differs depending on the characters. This could be a problem in the continuity of the movie. But, brilliant editing of scenes and sound track avoids this possible problem in the movie.

Acoustic qualities of “Singin’ in the rain”

Volume

The volume of sound is perfectly adjusted in the movie especially in romantic sequences. The song sequence of “I’m singing in rain…………” is a perfect example for this. Before the rain starts Don kisses Selden and walks in the rain. He doesn’t want to go by his car because he is too happy and wants to sing and dance in the rain. Lower volume is used in the romantic dialogue between Don and Selden just before Don starts his song. The song is completely visualized in rain. But no particular sound is used for rain. Sound of musical instrument just accompanies the vocal performance of the singer. But the volume of musical instruments doesn’t go higher than the volume of singer. The conversation seen between Don and Selden is taken in a close up shot. So the volume of sound is adjusted to catch the low volume dialogue. But after Selden closes the door, there is no big variation in the volume as it is a song sequence.

The song ‘Dream of you’ is another example in “Singin’ in the rain” for the perfect use of sound effects. In this, the director has been very successful in making the sound effect suitable for a party. As it is a fast song, the variation in volume is quite different from the song ‘I’m singing in the rain’. The main purpose of sound effects is to support the song in the party. In both the songs ’I’m singing in the rain’ and ‘Dream of you’, there are beautiful presentations of romance. But both are in two entirely different ways. In ‘I’m singing in the rain’, the sound of musical instruments and the vocal sound of the singer are adjusted to reflect the pleasure and romance that is inside the character. As Don is the only character in the song, the vocal sound of the singer and the dance of the actor are the main focus in the scene. But, the visualization of ‘Dream of you’ is entirely different from that of ‘I’m singing in the rain’. Besides the hero and the heroin, the sound of many characters needs to be included in the song. But there is no big variation in the volume with the change in camera angles. This is done because any such variation in volume can badly affect the normal flow of the song.

Pitch

In the song ‘I’m singing in the rain’, pitch of the sound varies according the lyrics and words. The song reflects the romance and the happiness inside the character. The song starts in a low pitch and there is no big variation of pitch in the beginning. Pitch is adjusted focusing on the meaning of lyrics. The music director has been very successful in creating the mood of romance and happiness using pitch variations in the song.

Pitch variation in song ‘Dream of you’ is used for a different purpose. There is no change in the pitch according to the words used in lyrics. Pitch is adjusted according to the rhythm of the song which is made to accompany the dance in the party. So, the body movements of the characters is the base of the pitch variation

Timbre

In the song ‘I’m singing in the rain’ the tone has been adjusted to reflect the emotions of a romantic person when he is alone. But, in the song ‘dream of you’ tonal quality of sound is quite different from it like all other acoustic qualities.

Conclusion

Today, it is the brightest time of movies with the help of sophisticated technologies. But the experiment with sound and other realm of movies began in 1950s and 1960s. The movie “Singin’ in the rain” is a cornerstone in the development of sound in movies. The use of sound in “Singin’ in the rain” is paying attention to all of its acoustic properties, categories and dimensions and the sound is used to comedy, romance, suspense, excitement and realism. This paper describes the two important scenes and it evaluates and compares with other movies. The movies “Persona” and “Singin’ in the rain” are art films. The important characteristics of art films are cause and effect chain, narrative organization of the theme; time is framed chronologically, arbitrary beginnings and ends. The major points which are discussed in detail in this paper are synopsis of two movies “Persona” and “Singin’ in the rain”, an analysis of both movies in order to make comparison and contrast on the different aspects and perspectives of these two movies, functions of sound in the movie “Singing in the rain”, acoustic qualities of the movie “Singin in the rain” and the volume, pitch, timbre of the sound in the movie “Singin’ in the rain”. The movie “Singin in the rain” is an experimental one in sound that led to the revolution in different fields of the film such as songs, sound, music, romance, dance, performance etc.

Works Cited

Ingmar Bergman: Persona, 1996. Acquarello. 1998. Web.

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