Writer/Director Sophie Barthes on Persona
“I think I could turn into you if I really tried.”
Talking About Persona with our guest, writer/director Sophie Barthes
On this episode of Movies We Like, we speak with writer/director Sophie Barthes about one of her favorite films, Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 psychological drama Persona. We also discussed Barthes’ own directing career and thoughts on filmmaking.
We have an in-depth discussion about Bergman’s avant-garde masterpiece Persona, analyzing its dreamlike atmosphere, innovative editing and cinematography, complex characters and themes of identity and psychology. We talk about how the film’s shocking opening montage and sparse narrative puts the viewer in an unsettled state of mind. Overall, we find Persona to be an endlessly discussable classic that still feels fresh and boundary-pushing today.
We also speak with Barthes about her three feature films – Cold Souls, Madame Bovary, and The Pod Generation. Barthes explains how she often explores themes of consumerism, psychology and identity through different genres and time periods. She shared insights into her creative process, from conceptualizing stories based on her dreams to her highly-stylized production design. Barthes also discussed the challenges of portraying human truths and darkness as a director today versus Bergman’s time.
Barthes gives thoughtful perspective as both a director and film lover. Her pick certainly leads to a rich discussion about cinematic art today as Persona proves to be a multilayered classic ripe for analysis.
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Sophie is a French American filmmaker who loves exploring characters whose right to free will has been compromised, and the provoking situations they must endure as a result. For example, her latest film The Pod Generation starring Emilia Clarke and Chiwetel Ejiofor, which she wrote, directed and is currently streaming, is a genre-bending dramedy exploring the fundamental nature vs. nurture paradigm of maternity, and what happens when that actually becomes a decision to be made. On the other hand, her directorial feature debut Cold Souls starring Paul Giamatti and Emily Watson, which played in competition at Sundance (and 30+ festivals worldwide) is a dark comedy about the desperation to recover the literal lost soul of a morally bankrupt screenwriter. And lastly, with her adaptation of Madame Bovary starring Mia Wasikowska which premiered at both Telluride and Toronto film festivals… if you’re not up on your turn-of-the-century French literature, well, it doesn’t exactly end well for Madame Emma Bovary when rejected by her latest opportunistic lover.
Sophie is a recipient of the Annenberg Foundation film fellowship, a Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Lab alumna and was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film.” She is a Columbia University graduate, EU passport holder, and lives in Brooklyn with filmmaker husband Andrij Parekh and their daughter, certainly a budding director.
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Welcome to Movies We Like
In each episode, co-hosts Andy Nelson and Pete Wright invite someone from inside the film industry to discuss their favorite films. What makes a movie inspirational to a cinematographer or a costume designer? Listen in to hear how these pros watch their favorite films.