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The Lannisters of Lannisport prospered, and built great walls around their city to defend it from those who sought to steal their wealth chiefly ironborn. The Lannisters of Casterly Rock became kings. Lann the Clever never called himself a king, as best we know, though some tales told centuries later have conferred that style on him posthumously. Loreon was the first Lannister to style himself King of the Rock, a title his sons and grandsons and their successors would continue to bear for thousands of years, until King Loren I met Aegon Targaryen and his sisters upon the Field of Fire.

Before that terrible defeat, however, the Kings of the Rock enjoyed many great victories. Cerion Lannister extended his rule as far east as the Golden Tooth and its surrounding hills, defeating three lesser kings when they made an alliance against him. Tommen Lannister, the First of His Name, build a great fleet and brought Fair Isle into the realm, taking the daughter of the last Farman king to wife.

Loreon II held the first tourney ever seen in the westerlands, defeating every knight who rode against him. The first Lancel Lannister known, of course, as Lancel the Lion rode to war against the Gardener kings of Highgarden, and conquered the Reach as far south as Old Oak before being felled in battle.

King Gerold Lannister, known as Gerold the Great, sailed to the Iron Islands and returned with a hundred ironborn hostages, promising to hang one every time the ironmen dared raid his shores. True to his word, Gerold hanged more than twenty of the hostages. He would later die in battle at Red Lake whilst attempting to invade the Reach.

But it was lost a century later, when Tommen II sailed to ruined Valyria with the intention of plundering whatever wealth and sorcery remained after the Doom. His great fleet never returned, and Brightroar vanished from the pages of history. The chronicle claims that Tommen swore that half of all he found would be given to the Volantenes.

Casterly Rock

In return the triarchs promised to send their fleet to his aid should he require it. A year later, the chronicle reports, the Triarch Marqelo Tagaros dispatched a squadron of ships toward Valyria to see if any sign of the golden fleet could be found, but they returned empty handed. Some of the Lannister kings were famed for their wisdom, some for their valor, all for their open-handedness.

Let there be no mistake, however: Casterly Rock also housed many a weak, cruel, and feeble king.

After their reigns, the name Loreon became notably less common amongst Lannister princes. A later monarch, Tyrion II, was known as the Tormentor. Though a strong king, famed for prowess with his battleaxe, his true delight was torture, and it was whispered of him that he desired no woman unless first he made her bleed. The Andals came late to the westerlands, long after they had taken the Vale and toppled the kingdoms of the First Men in the riverlands.

The first Andal warlord to march an army through the hills met a bloody end at the hands of King Tybolt Lannister called, for a change, the Thunderbolt. The second and third attacks were dealt with likewise, but as more and more Andals began moving west in bands large and small, King Tyrion III and his son Gerold II saw their doom ahead. Rather than attempt to throw back the invaders, these sage kings found lands for them and arranged marriages for the more powerful of the Andal war chiefs with the daughters of the great houses of the west.

Cautious men, and well aware of what had happened in the Vale, they took care to demand a price for this largesse; the sons and daughters of the Andal lords so ennobled were taken as wards and fosterlings, to serve as squires and pages and cupbearers in Casterly Rock. Thus did the Lannister kings turn foes into leal friends.

Many noble houses were born thus, amongst them the Jasts, the Leffords, the Parrens, the Droxes, the Marbrands, the Braxes, the Serretts, the Sarsfields, and the Kyndalls. In the days of the Hundred Kingdoms, when petty kings ruled over domains that extended no further than a man could see from their castle battlements, and waged endless bloody war upon one another, the westerlands enjoyed centuries of relative peace and prosperity under the Kings of the Rock.

Such foes as menaced the west came from without. The Lannister coastline lies closer to the Iron Islands than any other kingdom, and the wealth of Lannisport and its trade was a constant temptation to the reavers of those benighted isles. Wars between the westermen and the ironborn erupted every generation or so; even during periods of peace the ironmen would come raiding after wealth and salt wives.

Fair Isle did help shield the coast further south; for this reason the Farmans became famous for their hatred of the ironborn. The boundaries of the westerlands today follow those of the Kingdom of the Rock as it was before the Field of Fire, when King Loren Lannister Loren the Last knelt as a king and rose as a lord. But in bygone days, the boundaries were more fluid, particularly to the south, where the Lannisters oft contended against the Gardeners in the Reach, and to the east, where they warred against the many kings of the Trident.

The gold and silver mines of the westerlands are renowned, for the veins of ore run wide and deep—and there are mines, even now, that have been delved for a thousand years and more and are yet to be emptied. The gold of the west has traveled far, and so far as the maesters know there are no mines in all the world as rich as those of Casterly Rock. Barth often fell back upon prophecy and legend when attempting to delve into the mysteries of the past, however, and we know now that prophecy is at best ambiguous, and at worst actively false.

Archmaester Perestan has put forward a different, more plausible speculation, suggesting that the Valyrians reached as far as Oldtown but suffered some great reverse or tragedy there than caused them to shun all of Westeros thereafter]. Once Loren the Last gave up his crown, the Lannisters were reduced to lords.

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Though their vast wealth remained untouched, they did not have close ties to House Targaryen unlike the Baratheons and unlike the Tullys they were too proud to scrabble for a place of prominence beneath the Iron Throne. It was not until a generation later, when Prince Aegon and Princess Rhaena sought refuge from King Maegor the Cruel, that the Lannisters once again began to make a greater mark on the realm. Lord Tymond Lannister was present at the Great Council of AC that decided the succession, famously arriving with a huge retinue of three hundred bannermen, men-at-arms, and servants… only to be outdone by Matthos Tyrell of Highgarden, who counted five hundred in his retinue.

The Lannister host continued to march, winning victories under Ser Adrian Tarbeck, and then under Lord Lefford, only to fall by the thousands at the Fishfeed, caught between three armies. When Aegon II and his loyalists won back the city, Ser Tyland was found to have been blinded, mutilated, and gelded.

Yet his wits remained intact, and King Aegon retained him as master of coin. A regency followed the end of the fighting, since the new king, Aegon III, was but eleven years of age when he ascended the Iron Throne. In hopes of binding up the deep wounds left by the Dance, regents were chosen from both sides of the conflict, and Ser Tyland Lannister was made Hand of the King. Perhaps those who had been his enemies deemed him too blind and broken to be a threat to them, but Ser Tyland served ably for the best part of two years, before dying of the Winter Fever in AC.

A young man in his prime, Lord Tybolt left no heir of the body save for a daughter, Cyrelle, three years of age, whose reign as Lady of Casterly Rock proved cruelly short. A genial man, known to be exceedingly clever, Gerold had served as regent for his young niece, but the suddenness of her death at such a tender age set tongues to wagging, and it was whispered widely in the west that Lady Cyrelle had been murdered by her uncle.

The most common tale claimed that he had done the deed himself, smothering her with a pillow as she slept. Gerold Lannister soon proved himself to be an exceptionally shrewd, able, and fair-minded lord, greatly increasing the wealth of House Lannister, the power of Casterly Rock, and the trade at Lannisport. He ruled the westerlands for thirty-one years, earning the sobriquet Gerold the Golden, yet for all his accomplishments, certain of his lords and many of his smallfolk had no love for him, believing him responsible for the murder of his niece and, some said, his brother Tybolt as well.

So it was with Gerold the Golden, who lost both his beloved second wife and his splendid twin sons within the space of a decade.

Tywald, the eldest of the twins, died in battle in whilst squiring for Lord Robert Reyne of Castamere during the Peake Uprising. Others slain upon that grievous day included Lord Robert Reyne. Ser Roger Reyne the Red Lion , his eldest son and heir, took a bloody vengeance after the battle, slaying seven captive Peakes before Prince Aegon arrived to halt the slaughter. The chaos caused by the death of King Maekar I during the Storming of Starpike has been abundantly chronicled elsewhere, so we need not treat of it here. The assembled nobles, swayed in no small part by the eloquence and, some suggest, the gold of Lord Gerold the Golden, ultimately awarded the Iron Throne to Prince Aegon, who would rule the Seven Kingdoms for the next twenty-six years as King Aegon V the Unlikely.

Less well known, but no less baleful, are the dire effects the battle would have upon the history of the west. This strong-willed and hot-tempered maiden, who had for years anticipated one day being the Lady of Casterly Rock, was unwilling to forsake that dream. As her good-father retreated to his books and his bedchamber, Lady Ellyn held a splendid court, staging a series of magnificent tourneys and balls, and filling the Rock with artists, mummers, musicians… and Reynes. Her brothers Roger and Reynard were ever at her side, and offices, honors, and lands were showered upon them, and upon her uncles, cousins, and nephews and nieces as well.

Yet so proud and quick to anger was Ellyn Reyne that when the jape reached her ears, she commanded that Lord Toad be whipped. And so he was, for Lord Gerold was too sick to interfere, and Ser Tion his heir loved his lady with a passion and refused her nought. It ended far more quickly than the pretender might have wished, for precious few lords rose to join him; to most, the Blackfyre cause seemed as threadbare and tattered as their banners. The royalists lost fewer than a hundred men. Curiously, the opposite seemed to be the case. Lady Ellyn made one final attempt to cling to her place, declaring that she was with child by Ser Tion, but when the moons turned and her belly failed to swell, she was seen to be a liar.

Lord Toad, it is said, was merciless in his mockery, to the fury of the Red Lion, who soon departed Casterly Rock for Castamere, accompanied by his brother and many of the other Reynes. Lady Ellyn remained, but her influence dwindled away to nothing. No longer was she allowed access to the Lannister gold, nor called to council, nor included in decisions and deliberations, and though Lord Gerold permitted her to attend when he held court, she was not allowed to speak.

Knights no longer begged tokens of her favor at tourneys, jewelers and dressmakers no longer lavished her with gifts in hopes of her patronage, petitioners no longer came to ask her to intercede for them before the court. Though Lord Gerold forbade any man to speak of the incident, on the pain of losing his tongue, Beldon tells us that in AC, Ellyn Reyne was accused of bedding Tytos Lannister, whilst urging him to set aside his wife and marry her instead. Humiliated, he ran back to his wife to confess and beg her forgiveness.

Lady Jeyne was willing to pardon her young husband his fumbled infidelity, but was less forgiving of her good-sister, and did not hesitate to inform Lord Gerold of the incident. Furious, his lordship resolved to rid Casterly Rock of Ellyn Reyne for good and all by finding her a new husband. Ravens flew, and a hasty match was made.

Within the fortnight, Ellyn Reyne was wed to Walderan Tarbeck, Lord of Tarbeck Hall, the florid fifty-five year old widowed lord of an ancient, honorable, but impoverished House. Ellyn Reyne, now Lady Tarbeck, departed Casterly Rock with her husband, never to return, but the rivalry between her and Lady Jeyne Lannister was not at an end. If anything, it seemed to intensify. Though Lady Ellyn had not been able to give Ser Tion an heir, she proved more fertile with Walderan Tarbeck who, it should be noted, had a number of older sons from his first two marriages.

In she gave him a daughter, whom she named Rohanne. In another daughter, Cyrelle. Both these names were carefully chosen, Maester Belden points out. In Lady Tarbeck produced a son, a lusty red-haired boy she named Tion. That same year, however, Lady Jeyne answered with a son of her own. Other children would follow in good course three more sons and a daughter , but Tywin, the eldest, was the only grandchild his lordship would ever know.

In AC, Gerold the Golden died of a bad bladder, unable to pass water. All were offices for which he was manifestly unsuited. Lord Tytos Lannister had many virtues. He was a cheerful man, good-hearted and gentle, a jolly companion at a feast, faithful to his lady wife, indulgent to his children.

Slow to anger and quick to forgive, he saw good in every man, great or small, and was too trusting by half. Unlike his brothers, however, he was no warrior. Though a squire as a youth, he was never knighted, and whilst he loved tourneys, it was always as a spectator, never a participant. A plump boy, he became a fat man, for he had a great fondness for cheese, cakes, and beer. Where matters of state were concerned, Lord Tytos proved himself weak-willed and indecisive, swaying back and forth between two courses of action as a reed in the wind. He had no taste for war, and would laugh away insults that would have had most of his forebears shouting for their swords.

He would shrug off betrayals as misunderstandings, and forgive any trespass if asked for pardon. He was not wrong. House Lannister reached its nadir during the years that the Laughing Lion held court at Casterly Rock. The lords of the westerlands had known Tytos Lannister since birth.

A few did their best to support him, offering him sage counsel, and their swords when needed. Others saw in his weakness an opportunity to grasp power, wealth, and land for themselves. Ahasuerus decided to settle the issue by putting his wife the queen on public display. For she was beautiful to behold : It is not specifically said, but the implication is that Vashti was expected to display herself in an immodest way.

But Queen Vashti refused to come : Though Vashti was by no means a follower of the true God, she had enough wisdom and modesty to know that this was something she should not do. The Bible says that wives have a special responsibility to submit to their husbands wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord ; Ephesians Yet it does not mean that a wife must obey her husband if he commands her to sin. Every command to submit on a human level is conditioned by the higher obligation to obey God before man. However, it is important for a Christian in such a situation to maintain a submissive and respectful attitude towards the one in authority.

It is possible to disobey the command of another but do so in a submissive manner. It is impossible to say if Queen Vashti had this attitude in this situation. Jewish traditions say that her refusal had nothing to do with modesty. These stories say that she was ready to appear before the banqueters completely unclothed, except that God smote her with leprosy just as she received the request an obviously fanciful tradition.

Therefore the king was furious, and his anger burned : Queen Vashti was therefore in a very dangerous situation. It does not seem that she put herself in this situation, because it seems that she was not even at this banquet. Sadly, many women today put themselves in dangerous places, especially where alcohol is involved, showing a severe lack of wisdom. Nevertheless, it certainly gives no justification to the sin of men against an unwise woman in such a situation. Her courage was equal to her modesty: she would resist the royal mandate, rather than violate the rules of chaste decorum… Hail, noble woman!

Thus there will be excessive contempt and wrath. If it pleases the king, let a royal decree go out from him, and let it be recorded in the laws of the Persians and the Medes, so that it will not be altered, that Vashti shall come no more before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she.

Much of what I see is, of course, worthless, and most of it is not worth seeing twice. But there are still enough good films left over for me to feel, sometimes more often than you might think, that an entirely different season of films could be booked into the movie marketplace, replacing the films that do get shown, with little loss of quality. These are lost films, films that are the victims of the herd mentality of the American film audience. It has been eight years, for example, since the New German Cinema Rainer Werner Fassbinder , Werner Herzog , Volker Schlondorff , Wim Wenders , Alexander Kluge has been clearly identified in festival and critical circles as consistently providing the most interesting new movies coming out of Europe.

The filmgoing audience has been educated to a degree, yes: Subtitles are no longer the curse of death for a foreign film, and offbeat subject matter is now welcomed as easily as it was once shunned; stylistic experiments by directors like Altman whose sound tracks imitate the complexity of life or Scorsese who sets a frenetic, choppy pace for his characters to keep up with are easily absorbed by a generation saturated by television.

But the process seems now to have slowed down if it has not altogether stopped. In the early days of the revolution, I often discovered films being played in nearly empty theaters which nevertheless gave me quiet delight and satisfaction because I knew they had been made by artists with vision and the determination to work it out. This is less and less true for me nowadays. We have learned from the New Wave, even if indirectly. We have grown conscious of individual filmmakers, and alert to personal styles. But we have also grown wary of the odd film, the film that is not an event, that leaves some of its viewers filled with admiration and others simply confused.

The New Wave as a revolution is twenty years old; its victories are consolidated and taken for granted. But there is still resistance to a new New Wave, the film that does not simply improvise with narrative but tries to leave it behind, to liberate itself from explanation and paraphrase and work in terms of pure cinema.

It has been many decades since art, dance, or music were required to have paraphrasable content, or even thought of in that way. A similar freedom has come more slowly to the theater, and hardly at all to film. Movie advertising and promotion executives believe a sure key to box office success is a movie that can be described in one easy sentence:. Marlon Brando meets this girl in an empty apartment, and they…. There did seem to be a brief moment, in the late s, when narrative films were becoming obsolete. Road pictures often functioned as clotheslines on which the director could hang out some of his ideas about American society, at a particularly fragmented moment in our own history.

Other films abandoned narrative altogether. Underground and psychedelic films surfaced briefly in commercial houses. Nobody has been much interested that some of them "The Godfather" and "Chinatown," for example may have richer levels of psychological and visual organization. It appears, then, that films aimed only at the eye and the emotions cannot find large audiences.

Experimental filmmakers can try out fascinating combinations of color, light, pulse, cutting, and sound as Jordan Belsen did. They can even create works in which the actual cone of light from the projector was the work of art, and instruct the audience to stand where the screen would be as Anthony McCall has done. But their nonnarrative works play in museums and galleries and on the campus; commercial feature filmmaking and its audience seem as committed as ever to good stories, well told.

But I believe the future of feature films as an art form lies in the possibilities beyond narrative—in the intuitive linking of images, dreams, and abstractions with reality, and with the freeing of them all from the burden of relating a story. I certainly do not believe the day will come soon when large audiences forsake narrative. My concern about television should be almost self-explanatory.

Most of us probably spend too much time watching it. Most of it is not very good. To catch and retain our attention, it has to go by quickly. These smaller climaxes are interrupted at approximately nine-minute intervals by larger climaxes, called commercials. A commercial can sometimes cost more than the show surrounding it and can look it. Made-for-television movie scripts are consciously written with the thought that they must be interrupted at regular intervals; the stories are fashioned so that moments of great interest are either arrived at or as often postponed for the commercial.

I have expressed concern about our obsessive love for narrative, our demand that movies tell us a story. Perhaps I should be just as concerned with what television is doing to our ability to be told a story. We read novels for many reasons, E. Forster tells us in a famous passage from Aspects of the Novel , but most of all we read them to see how they will turn out. Do we, anymore? Traditional novels and films were often all of a piece, especially the good ones, and one of the pleasures of progressing through them was to see the structure gradually revealing itself. Is the mass audience still patient enough for such craftsmanship?

Or has the violent narrative fragmentation of television made visual consumption a process rather than an end? I might have chosen a number of other films for a discussion of the nonnarrative possibilities of the medium; I choose these two not only because I think they are genuinely great but because they share a similar theme and so can help illuminate each other.

Neither film was a commercial success. Both films dealt with women who exchanged, or merged, personalities. Neither film ever explained, or tried to explain, how those exchanges took place. For many members of the audience, that was apparently the trouble. After an opening consisting of a quick montage of images about which more later , Bergman introduces the premise of "Persona.

The next day she tries to shake off her strange silence, but is unsuccessful. The nurse is apprehensive from the first: What if the actress, so much stronger and more famous, proves to be too much for her? That is apparently what happens. The two women enjoy a quiet existence together for at time, picking berries, sorting mushrooms, taking walks on the beach. But eventually the silence of the actress draws the nurse into more and more compulsive conversation, including a long monologue in which she describes a youthful sexual encounter on a beach.

The actress breaks the confidence by describing the anecdote in a letter to her husband—a letter perhaps deliberately left unsealed. When the nurse reads the letter, she feels so angry and betrayed that she deliberately leaves a piece of glass where the actress will step on it. When that happens, the film apparently breaks. The film, happily, would break, or someone lower the curtain by mistake; or perhaps there could be a short circuit, so that all the lights in the cinema went out. I think the shadows would continue their game, even if some happy interruptions cut short our discomfort. Perhaps they no longer need the assistance of the apparatus, the projector, the film, or the sound track.

They reach out towards our senses, deep inside the retina, or into the finest recesses of the ear. Is this the case? This is his mystical, almost savagely yearning wish for the way his film should affect us. There is the dream sequence I mentioned at the outset the one, to repeat, that may not be a dream.

Two doors, brightly illuminated, are on either side of the screen. A bed is in the foreground. Curtains seem to obscure the views back into either of the doorways.

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A foghorn is heard. Something is said or is it said?

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She rises. They embrace, and then turn slowly so that both look directly at the camera. Later in the film there is a long monologue in which the nurse seems to know personal secrets in the background of the actress: How she feels about her husband, her child, her sex. Bergman shoots the scene twice, once with an unbroken closeup of the nurse, then again with an unbroken closeup of the actress.

Then, stunningly, he uses a double exposure to blend the two faces together.

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And we remember that among the images at the very beginning of the film were those in which a small boy reached out a hand to touch out-of-focus faces on a screen: The faces of two women. What I have written here is so far from describing the effect of the film, the mystery of its strangeness and greatness, that I might just as well not have bothered. There is, to be sure, no end of clues for the scholar determined to make sense of "Persona.

After two decades of making films which were often about artists who found themselves creatively impotent, he suddenly found himself in that very dilemma. But I know that 'Persona' literally saved my life at the time I was writing it. I was very ill. So I started to write down some lines every day, just a few lines, just for the discipline of going from the bed to the table without falling over.

As a filmmaker, I could not work if I could not move. Now here was a story about an actress who stopped working one day, surrendered her ability to talk. As a functioning filmmaker, he might as well have been paralyzed. And so now we have the autobiographical reference, if we want one. The montage of brief images at the beginning of the film represents his own recreation of his art, and of his ability to function. I reflected on what was important, and began with the projector and my desire to set it in motion. Again, when the film breaks after the actress steps on the glass—that is the moment when the filmmaking tension has become too great to bear, so that Bergman the artist breaks and must start again.

That was…when I got ill again, and the whole thing had come to a stop. These are things I know now, and yet I have not begun to get to the bottom of "Persona," even after seeing it perhaps a dozen times, after teaching it many times with the film analyzer, and, indeed, after discussing it with Bergman.

But what did I see on the November afternoon in , when I had been a professional film critic only six months and was therefore presumably fairly close to the average, if serious, moviegoer I hoped to write for? In looking back at my own review of "Persona," written the same day I first saw the film, I find the same mystification in my own first response that so many other people feel.

The nurse is maddened by the unspeaking actress in the same sense that the audience is frustrated by the movie: Both stubbornly refuse to be conventional and to respond as we expect. I suppose I intended that as praise. I awarded the movie four stars, in that conventional newspaper movie review shorthand that also awards "Jaws" four stars.

But I did not understand it. Or, more correctly, perhaps I understood it and did not know that I did. I did not find the feeling in the images, because I was staring at them so hard to spot their meanings. I know today, because I have been told, exactly what each of the images in the opening montage represents. But that sort of knowledge is really movie trivia; spiders and ghosts and cadavers and a nail being driven into a hand have visceral meaning if we let them, and Bergman was not putting them in, I suspect, so that the scholars of his work could take them out again and label them.

They are there for the viewer to respond to as he wishes. But what of the story of the women that grew up around it? We know, because we are familiar with Freudian shorthand and perhaps took college courses rich in image and metaphor, what such a story could mean. In the hands of another director, it could become a struggle of wills, perhaps, and we could take that home and file it away. But why does Bergman cheat? Those faces merging into one another—is he playing with them, with us, or with his camera? What is going on here?

Does the husband really make love to the actress? Is he there at all? As late as , Hitchcock marred the ending of his masterpiece, "Psycho," by bringing an unnecessary psychiatrist on screen for that very reason. My own view of "Persona," developed gradually after all those many viewings, is that the film is intended primarily as a sensual experience, dealing at levels below narrative with the uncertainties we all have about our identities.

I do not mean here to sound anti-intellectual, or to suggest that academic study of such a film is futile. Music has that ability; why not film? Most films will not stand up to repeated viewings, but perhaps some of the great ones demand them. As we grow more and more familiar with the images and the rhythms, perhaps the medium grows transparent and we can see through it to the mind of the artist, feel his feelings, and share his fears.

If the artist is uninteresting or banal or concerned only with diverting us or making money for himself, that transparency will, of course, be disappointing. But if his insights are truly felt, and if he has through skill or luck found the appropriate external forms for them in the story, the performers, the locations, the camera strategy, the editing, the music, and the art direction , then I believe the film medium is sensitive and flexible enough to become the means of a joining of minds. Let me return, with that view, to the moment in "Persona" I have described, one of the most sublimely beautiful and moving moments in film history.

We are in the bedroom of the cottage. Liv Ullmann appears in the brightly lit, almost ethereal space behind the same curtains on the right—she seems almost a ghost. She speaks, or does she? We do not see her lips move. Bibi Andersson, apparently asleep, senses a presence in the room. She turns on her side in the bed, sees Liv Ullmann, and rises. The two women approach each other and then turn to the camera—to us.

Both look at us. What do we feel? I have read reviews so insipid as to find a lesbian element in this scene. Or, on the level of abstract visual strategy, the back-and-forth movements of the characters can be read as a demonstration of their individual choices, their positive and negative possibilities, and of how they come to rest on the strong axis as they admit their mutual humanity.

But there is still much more there to be discovered. What I sense after so many viewings is that this is the emotional center of the film. Bergman is permitting the two characters to touch as they so gravely regard us, so that we can experience the duality he sees in all human personalities: The visible and the interior, our public personalities and what we secretly know about ourselves, the differences we have one from another and the fundamental ways in which we are all the same.

How simple! How important! And if we experience the moment deeply enough, we are struck then and there with the clarifying realization that "Persona" is not about an actress who suddenly one day stops speaking: It is a film in which Bergman uses that plot element to free himself from words, so that communication could take place between his actresses and with his audiences without the cumbersome necessity for everything to be objectified and explained by dialogue. A film in which both characters were permitted to speak might have taken forever to communicate the same meaning—if it could have.

So I decided to do it. Hitchcock has said that when his screenplays are finished, his films are perfect; they become flawed only during the execution. Altman, awakening from his dream, must have felt even more frustrated: "Three Women" was finished, all except for the steps necessary to make it into a movie. He might have been wiser, perhaps, not to reveal that he began with a dream.

His film, like "Persona," lacks a paraphrasable story and cannot be described in such a way as to give it easily assimilated meaning Critics requiring that kind of content have accused Altman of indulging himself, of not bothering to give shape and form to his fantasies. Yet, like Bergman, Altman was uninterested in constructing a Freudian puzzle that we could entertain ourselves by solving.

He wanted simply to film his dream. Such indulgences are permitted to the avant-garde—indeed, even are expected and encouraged. But if a Hollywood director takes money from 20th Century-Fox and casts star actresses like Shelley Duvall and Sissy Spacek in his dream, he seems to invite irrational resentments. We are somewhere in the Southwest—Southern California, maybe, at a spa where old people come to rest and take the heat and the waters.

Sissy Spacek, painfully shy, easily grateful, comes to work at the spa, and Duvall teaches her some of the ropes. In an early scene that provides the visual and dream keys to the entire movie, Duvall has Spacek lie back in the shallow, overheated pool where the old people make their arthritic progress through problematic cures. The twins obviously suggest the twinning that the two major characters will experience before their gradual merging with a third; we will return later to what is suggested by the flexing of the legs.

It is, though, the dream deceiving itself by seeming to be everyday, routine, and even banal.