People ask what are my intentions with my films — my aims. It is a difficult and dangerous question, and I usually give an evasive answer: I try to tell the truth about the human condition, the truth as I see it.
Ingmar Bergman (14 July1918 – 30 July2007) was a Swedish director and screenwriter whose unique cinematographic style made him one of the most notable directors of the twentieth century.
Self-portraiture is something one should never get involved in, since it is wrong to lie even though one endeavours to tell the truth.
When we experience a film, we consciously prime ourselves for illusion. Putting aside will and intellect, we make way for it in our imagination. The sequence of pictures plays directly on our feelings. Music works in the same fashion; I would say that there is no art form that has so much in common with film as music. Both affect our emotions directly, not via the intellect. And film is mainly rhythm; it is inhalation and exhalation in continuous sequence. Ever since childhood, music has been my great source of recreation and stimulation, and I often experience a film or play musically.
"Introduction" of Four Screenplays (1960).
Regardless of whether I believe or not, whether I am a Christian or not, I would play my part in the collective building of the cathedral.
People ask what are my intentions with my films — my aims. It is a difficult and dangerous question, and I usually give an evasive answer: I try to tell the truth about the human condition, the truth as I see it. This answer seems to satisfy everyone, but it is not quite correct. I prefer to describe what I would like my aim to be. There is an old story of how the cathedral of Chartres was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. Then thousands of people came from all points of the compass, like a giant procession of ants, and together they began to rebuild the cathedral on its old site. They worked until the building was completed — master builders, artists, labourers, clowns, noblemen, priests, burghers. But they all remained anonymous, and no one knows to this day who built the cathedral of Chartres. Regardless of my own beliefs and my own doubts, which are unimportant in this connection, it is my opinion that art lost its basic creative drive the moment it was separated from worship. It severed an umbilical cord and now lives its own sterile life, generating and degenerating itself. In former days the artist remained unknown and his work was to the glory of God. He lived and died without being more or less important than other artisans; 'eternal values,' 'immortality' and 'masterpiece' were terms not applicable in his case. The ability to create was a gift. In such a world flourished invulnerable assurance and natural humility. Today the individual has become the highest form and the greatest bane of artistic creation. The smallest wound or pain of the ego is examined under a microscope as if it were of eternal importance. The artist considers his isolation, his subjectivity, his individualism almost holy. Thus we finally gather in one large pen, where we stand and bleat about our loneliness without listening to each other and without realizing that we are smothering each other to death. The individualists stare into each other's eyes and yet deny the existence of each other. We walk in circles, so limited by our own anxieties that we can no longer distinguish between true and false, between the gangster's whim and the purest ideal. Thus if I am asked what I would like the general purpose of my films to be, I would reply that I want to be one of the artists in the cathedral on the great plain. I want to make a dragon's head, an angel, a devil — or perhaps a saint — out of stone. It does not matter which; it is the sense of satisfaction that counts. Regardless of whether I believe or not, whether I am a Christian or not, I would play my part in the collective building of the cathedral.
Four Screenplays of Ingmar Bergman (1960).
I always admire people who are going on, who have a sort of idea and, however crazy it is, are putting it through; they are putting people and things together, and they make something. I always admire this.
Say anything you want against The Seventh Seal. My fear of death — this infantile fixation of mine — was, at that moment, overwhelming. I felt myself in contact with death day and night, and my fear was tremendous. When I finished the picture, my fear went away. I have the feeling simply of having painted a canvas in an enormous hurry — with enormous pretension but without any arrogance. I said, 'Here is a painting; take it, please.'
Interview with Charles Thomas Samuels (1971).
In this profession, I always admire people who are going on, who have a sort of idea and, however crazy it is, are putting it through; they are putting people and things together, and they make something. I always admire this. But I can't see his pictures. I sit for perhaps twenty-five or thirty or fifty minutes and then I have to leave, because his pictures make me so nervous. I have the feeling the whole time that he wants to tell me things, but I don't understand what it is, and sometimes I have the feeling that he's bluffing, double-crossing me.
I want very much to tell, to talk about, the wholeness inside every human being...
I think he's a very good technician. And he has something in Psycho, he had some moments. Psycho is one of his most interesting pictures because he had to make the picture very fast, with very primitive means. He had little money, and this picture tells very much about him. Not very good things. He is completely infantile, and I would like to know more — no, I don't want to know — about his behaviour with, or, rather, against women. But this picture is very interesting.
I want very much to tell, to talk about, the wholeness inside every human being. It's a strange thing that every human being has a sort of dignity or wholeness in him, and out of that develops relationships to other human beings, tensions, misunderstandings, tenderness, coming in contact, touching and being touched, the cutting off of a contact and what happens then.
As quoted in Ingmar Bergman Directs (1972) by John Simon
I am very much aware of my own double self... The well-known one is very under control; everything is planned and very secure. The unknown one can be very unpleasant. I think this side is responsible for all the creative work — he is in touch with the child. He is not rational, he is impulsive and extremely emotional. Perhaps it is not even a "he," but a "she."
I was very cruel to actors and to other people. I think I was a very, very unpleasant young man. If I met the young Ingmar today, I think I would say, "You are very talented and I will see if I can help you, but I don't think I want anything else to do with you." I don't say I'm pleasant now, but I think I changed slowly in my 50's. At least I hope I've changed.
As quoted in "Ingmar Bergman: Summing Up A Life In Film" by Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times Magazine (26 June 1983).
I am so 100 percent Swedish... Someone has said a Swede is like a bottle of ketchup — nothing and nothing and then all at once — splat. I think I'm a little like that. And I think I'm Swedish because I like to live here on this island. You can't imagine the loneliness and isolation in this country. In that way, I'm very Swedish — I don't dislike to be alone
As quoted in "Ingmar Bergman: Summing Up A Life In Film" by Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times Magazine (26 June 1983).
I'm planning, you see, to try to confine myself to the truth. That's hard for an old, inveterate fantasy martyr and [illegible] liar who has never hesitated to give truth the form he felt the occasion demanded.
When film is not a document, it is dream. That is why Tarkovsky is the greatest of them all. He moves with such naturalness in the room of dreams. He doesn't explain. What should he explain anyhow? He is a spectator, capable of staging his visions in the most unwieldy but, in a way, the most willing of media. All my life I have hammered on the doors of the rooms in which he moves so naturally. Only a few times have I managed to creep inside. Most of my conscious efforts have ended in embarrassing failure...
On Andrei Tarkovsky in Laterna Magica (1987); The Magic Lantern : An Autobiography as translated by Joan Tate (1988). [also sometimes referred to as The Magical Lantern]
Film has dream, film has music. No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight room of the soul. A little twitch in our optic nerve, a shock effect: twenty-four illuminated frames in a second, darkness in between, the optic nerve incapable of registering darkness. At the editing table, when I run the trip of film through, frame by frame, I still feel that dizzy sense of magic of my childhood: in the darkness of the wardrobe, I slowly wind one frame after another, see almost imperceptible changes, wind faster — a movement.
Laterna Magica (1987); The Magic Lantern : An Autobiography as translated by Joan Tate (1988).
Variant translation: Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.
As quoted in "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" by John Berger, Sight and Sound (June 1991).
I hope I never get so old I get religious.
As quoted in the International Herald Tribune (8 September 1989).
The demons are innumerable, arrive at the most inappropriate times and create panic and terror... but I have learned that if I can master the negative forces and harness them to my chariot, then they can work to my advantage.... Lilies often grow out of carcasses' arseholes.
I don't want to produce a work of art that the public can sit and suck aesthetically…. I want to give them a blow in the small of the back, to scorch their indifference, to startle them out of their complacency.
Our social relationships are limited, most of the time, to gossip and criticizing people's behavior. This observation slowly pushed me to isolate from the so-called social life. My days pass by in solitude.
Love her? You're devoid of all feeling. You lack common decency. You know how to express yourself. You always have just the right words. There's just one thing you haven't the slightest clue about: life itself. You're a craven coward, but a genius at evasions and excuses.
When Jesus was nailed to the cross — and hung there in torment - he cried out — "God, my God! Why hast thou forsaken me?" He cried out as loud as he could. He thought that his heavenly father had abandoned him. He believed everything he'd ever preached was a lie. The moments before he died, Christ was seized by doubt. Surely that must have been his greatest hardship? God's silence.
Unmotivated cruelty is something which never ceases to fascinate me; and I'd very much like to know the reason for it.
I suppose that's what the final sequence tries to express. The notion of love as the only thinkable form of holiness.
The drama turned into something else; into something altogether tangible, something perfectly real, elementary and self-evident.
One must do what it is one's duty to do, particularly in spiritual contexts. Even if it can seem meaningless...
It must be obvious that certain... — archetypes, aren't they called? — stick in one's mind...
People think there's a solution... If everything is distributed in the proper quarters, put into the right pigeonholes, everything will be fine. But I'm not so sure.
I know the first film I ever saw — it must have been some time in 1924, when I was six or so... was Black Beauty. About a stallion. I still recall a sequence with fire. It was burning, I remember that vividly. And I remember too how it excited me, and how afterwards we bought the book of Black Beauty and how I learned the chapter on the fire by heart — at that time I still hadn't learned to read.
Stig Bjorkman interview
In our family we had a well-to-do aunt who always gave us magnificent Christmas presents. She was so much part of the family that we even included her in our prayers at bedtime... I suppose I must have been nine or ten years old at the time. Suddenly Aunt Anna's Christmas presents were lying there too, and among them a parcel with 'Forsner's on it. So of course I instantly knew it contained a projector. For a couple of years I'd been consumed with a passionate longing to own one, but had been considered too small for such a present... I was incredibly excited. Because my father was a clergyman we never got our presents on Christmas Eve, like other Swedish children do. We got them on Christmas Day... Well, you can imagine my disappointment when it turned out to be my older brother — he's four years older than myself — who got the projector — and I was given a teddy bear. It was one of my life's bitterest disappointments. After all, my brother wasn't a scrap interested in cinematography. But both of us had masses of lead soldiers. So on Boxing Day I bought the projector off him for half my army and he beat me hollow in every war ever afterwars. But I'd got the projector, anyway.
Stig Bjorkman interview
That I wasn't interested in politics or social matters, that's dead right. I was utterly indifferent. After the war and the discovery of the concentration camps, and with the collapse of political collaborations between the Russians and the Americans, I just contracted out. My involvement became religious. I went in for a psychological, religious line... the salvation-damnation issue, for me, was never political. It was religious. For me, in those days, the great question was: Does God exist? Or doesn't God exist? Can we, by an attitude of faith, attain to a sense of community and a better world? Or, if God doesn't exist, what do we do then? What does our world look like then? In none of this was there the least political colour. My revolt against bourgeois society was a revolt-against-the-father. I was a peripheral fellow, regarded with deep suspicion from every quarter... When I arrived in Gothenburg after the war, the actors at the Municipal Theatre fell into distinct groups: old ex-Nazis, Jews, and anti-Nazis. Politically speaking, there was dynamite in that company: but Torsten Hammaren, the head of the theatre, held it together in his iron grasp.
Stig Bjorkman interview
My basic view of things is — not to have any basic view of things. From having been exceedingly dogmatic, my views on life have gradually dissolved. They don't exist any longer... I've a strong impression that our world is about to go under. Our political systems are deeply compromised and have no further uses. Our social behavior patterns — interior and exterior — have proved a fiasco. The tragic thing is, we neither can nor want to, nor have the strength to alter course. It's too late for revolutions, and deep down inside ourselves we no longer even believe in their positive effects. Just around the corner an insect world is waiting for us — and one day it's going to roll in over our ultra-individualized existence. Otherwise I'm a respectable social democrat.
Stig Bjorkman interview
Now let's get this Devil business straight, once and for all. To begin at the beginning: the notion of God, one might say, has changed aspect over the years, until it has either become so vague that it has faded away altogether or else has turned into something entirely different. For me, hell has always been a most suggestive sort of place; but I've never regarded it as being located anywhere else than on earth. Hell is created by human beings — on earth! What I believed in those days — and believed in for a long time — was the existence of a virulent evil, in no way dependent upon environmental or hereditary factors. Call it original sin or whatever you like — anyway an active evil, of which human beings, as opposed to animals, have a monopoly. Our very nature, qua human beings, is that inside us we always carry around destructive tendencies, conscious or unconscious, aimed both at ourselves and at the outside world. As a materialization of this virulent, indestructible, and — to us — inexplicable and incomprehensble evil, I manufactured a personage possessing the diabolical traits of a mediaeval morality figure. In various contexts I'd made it into a sort of private game to have a diabolic figure hanging around. His evil was one of the springs in my watch-works. And that's all there is to the devil-figure in my early films... Unmotivated cruelty is something which never ceases to fascinate me; and I'd very much like to know the reason for it. Its source is obscure and I'd very much like to get at it.
Torsten Manns interview
One of the strongest feelings I remember from my childhood is, precisely, of being humiliated; of being knocked about by words, acts, or situations. Isn't it a fact that children are always feeling deeply humiliated in their relations with grown-ups and each other? I have a feeling children spend a good deal of their time humiliating one another. Our whole education is just one long humiliation, and it was even more so when I was a child. One of the wounds I've found hardest to bear in my adult life has been the fear of humiliation, and the sense of being humiliated. . . Every time I read a review, for instance — whether laudatory or not — this feeling awakes. . . To humiliate and be humiliated, I think, is a crucial element in our whole social structure. It's not only the artist I'm sorry for. It's just that I know exactly where he feels most humiliated. Our bureaucracy, for instance. I regard it as in high degree built up on humiliation, one of the nastiest and most dangerous of all poisons.
Torsten Manns interview
I stick to what I know. If I've objected strongly to Christianity, it has been because Christianity is deeply branded by a very virulent humiliation motif. One of its main tenets is 'I, a miserable sinner, born in sin, who have sinned all my days, etc.' Our way of living and behaving under this punishment is completely atavistic. I could go on talking about this humiliation business for ever. It's one of the big basic experiences. I react very strongly to every form of humiliation; and a person in my situation, in my position, has been exposed to whole series of real humiliations. Not to mention having humiliated others!
Torsten Manns interview
To the fanatical believer physical and spiritual suffering is beside the point, compared with salvation. That is why, to him, everything happening around him is irrelevant, a mirror-image, a mere will-o'-the-wisp. … I can really never get shot of them, the fanatics. Whether they appear as religious fanatics or vegetarian fanatics makes no odds. They're catastrophic people. These types whose whole cast of mind as it were looks beyond mere human beings toward some unknown goal. The terrible thing is the great power they often wield over their fellow human beings. Apart from the fact that I believe they suffer like the very devil, I've no sympathy for them.
Jonas Sima interview
I've never been much smitten by Catholicism. I've never been committed to any religious dogma of any sort. … For years the Catholics had me on their blacklist. Then along comes some sharp-witted pater and says 'Let's take this lad into the business, instead.' And I've been plagued by Catholic interpretations ever since. … I've never felt any attraction to Catholicism. Catholicism, I think, does have its attractions. But Protestantism is a wretched kettle of fish.
Stig Bjorkman interview
As far as I recall, it's a question of the total dissolution of all notions of an other-worldly salvation. During those years this was going on in me all the time and being replaced by a sense of the holiness — to put it clumsily — to be found in man himself. The only holiness which really exists. A holiness wholly of this world. And I suppose that's what the final sequence tries to express. The notion of love as the only thinkable form of holiness. At the same time another line of development in my idea of God begins here, one that has perhaps grown stronger over the years. The idea of the Christian God as something destructive and fantastically dangerous, something filled with risk for the human being and bringing out in him dark destructive forces instead of the opposite.
On the ideas of God presented in Hour of the Wolf (1968); Torsten Manns interview
Well, we're grasping for two things at once. Partly for communion with others — that's the deepest instinct in us. And partly, we're seeking security. By constant communion with others we hope we shall be able to accept the horrible fact of our total solitude. We're always reaching out for new projects, new structure, new systems in order to abolish — partly or wholly — our insight into our loneliness. If it weren't so, religious systems would never arise.
Torsten Manns interview
No one is safe from religious ideas and confessional phenomena. Neither you nor I. We can fall victim to them when we least expect it. It's like Mao flu, or being struck by lightning. You're utterly helpless. Exposed. As I see it today, any relapse is utterly out of the question. But I can't say it's out of the question tomorrow.
Jonas Sima interview
Winter Light — suppose we discuss that now?... The film is closely connected with a particular piece of music: Stravinski's A Psalm Symphony. I heard it on the radio one morning during Easter, and it struck me I'd like to make a film about a solitary church on the plains of Uppland. Someone goes into the church, locks himself in, goes up to the altar, and says: 'God, I'm staying here until in one way or another You've proved to me You exist. This is going to be the end either of You or of me!' Originally the film was to have been about the days and nights lived through by this solitary person in the locked church, getting hungrier and hungrier, thirstier and thirstier, more and more expectant, more and more filled with his own experiences, his visions, his dreams, mixing up dream and reality, while he's involved in this strange, shadowy wrestling match with God. We were staying out on Toro, in the Stockholm archipelago. It was the first summer I'd had the sea all around me. I wandered about on the shore and went indoors and wrote, and went out again. The drama turned into something else; into something altogether tangible, something perfectly real, elementary and self-evident. The film is based on something I'd actually experienced. Something a clergyman up in Dalarna told me: the story of the suicide, the fisherman Persson. One day the clergyman had tried to talk to him; the next, Persson had hanged himself. For the clergyman it was a personal catastrophe.
Jonas Sima interview
We drove about, looking for churches, my father and I. My father, as you probably know, was a clergyman — he knew all the Uppland churches like the back of his hand. We went to morning services in variouis places and were deeply impressed by the spiritual poverty of these churches, by the lack of any congregation and the miserable spiritual status of the clergy, the poverty of their sermons, and the nonchalance and indifference of the ritual. In one church, I remember — and I think it has a great deal to do with the end of the film — Father and I were sitting together. My father had already been retired for many years, and was old and frail.... Just before the bell begins to toll, we hear a car outside, a shining Volvo: the clergyman climbs out hurriedly, and there is a faint buzz from the vestry, and then the clergyman appears before he ought to — when the bell stops, that is — and says he feels very poorly and that he's talked to the rector and the rector has said he can use an abbrviated form of the service and drop the part at the altar. So there would be just one psalm and a sermon and another psalm. And goes out. Whereon my father, furious, began hammering on the pew, got to his feet and marched out into the vestry, where a long mumbled conversation ensued; after which the churchwarden also went in, then someone ran up the organ gallery to fetch the organist, after which the churchwarden came out and announced that there would be a complete service after all. My father took the service at the altar, but at the beginning and the end. In some way I feel the end of the play was influenced by my father's intervention — that at all costs one must do what it is one's duty to do, particularly in spiritual contexts. Even if it can seem meaningless.
Today we say all art is political. But I'd say all art has to do with ethics. Which after all really comes to the same thing. It's a matter of attitudes. … All this talk about me standing aside, cutting myself off and so forth, has always amazed me... I've stated, firmly and clearly, that though as an artist I'm not politically involved, I obviously am an expression of the society I live in. Anything else would be grotesque. But I don't make propaganda for either one attitude or the other. No. As I told you, I vote for the Social Democrats. Their way of solving social problems comes closest to what I regard as decent. That I also find their actual solutions odd in many ways is another matter...
Jonas Sima interview
I come from a world of conservative Christian thought. I've absorbed Christianity with my mother's milk. So it must be obvious that certain... archetypes, aren't they called? — stick in one's mind, and that certain lines, certain courses of events, certain ways of behaving, become adequate symbols for what goes on in the Christian system of ideas. … I keep myself supplied with my own angels and demons...
Torsten Manns interview.
People think there's a solution... If everything is distributed in the proper quarters, put into the right pigeonholes, everything will be fine. But I'm not so sure. … Nothing, absolutely nothing at all has emerged out of all these ideas of faith and scepticism, all these convulsions, these puffings and blowings. For many of my fellow human beings on the other hand, I'm aware that these problems still exist — and exist as a terrible reality. I hope this generation will be the last to live under the scourge of religious anxiety.
Jonas Sima interview
If you have a faith, if you've some deep conviction, whether you're a Nazi or a Communist or what the hell else you are — then you can sacrifice yourself and others to your faith. But from the moment you've no faith — from that moment you live in a deep inner confusion — from then on you're exposed to what Strindberg calls 'the powers'.
The image that later became famous of the Dance of Death beneath the darkcloud was improvised in only a few minutes.
A French critic cleverly wrote that "with Autumn Sonata Bergman does Bergman." It is witty but unfortunate. For me, that is. I think it is only too true that Bergman (Ingmar, that is) did a Bergman... I love and admire the filmmaker Tarkovsky and believe him to be one of the greatest of all time. My admiration for Fellini is limitless. But I also feel that Tarkovsky began to make Tarkovsky films and that Fellini began to make Fellini films. Yet Kurosawa has never made a Kurosawa film. I have never been able to appreciate Buñuel. He discovered at an early stage that it is possible to fabricate ingenious tricks, which he elevated to a special kind of genius, particular to Buñuel, and then he repeated and varied his tricks. He always received applause. Buñuel nearly always made Buñuel films.
The Seventh Seal is one of the few films really close to my heart. Actually, I don't know why. It's certainly far from perfect. I had to contend with all sorts of madness, and one can detect here and there the speed with which it was made. But I find it even, strong, and vital.
The final scene when Death dances off with the travelers was…shot at Hovs hallar. We had packed up for the day because of an approaching storm. Suddenly, I caught sight of a strange cloud. Gunnar Fischer hastily set the camera back into place. Several of the actors had already returned to where we were staying, so a few grips and a couple of tourists danced in their place, having no idea what it was all about. The image that later became famous of the Dance of Death beneath the dark cloud was improvised in only a few minutes. That's how things can happen on the set.
If you peel off the layers of various theologies, the holy always remains.
Since at this time I was still very much in a quandary over religious faith, I placed my two opposing beliefs side by side, allowing each to state its case in its own way. In this manner, a virtual cease-fire could exist between my childhood piety and my newfound harsh rationalism. Thus, there are no neurotic complications between the knight and his vassals. Also, I infused the characters of Jof and Mia with something that was very important to me: the concept of the holiness of the human being. If you peel off the layers of various theologies, the holy always remains.
I had recklessly dared to do what I wouldn't dare to do today. The knight performs his morning prayer. When he is ready to pack up his chess set, he turns around, and there stands Death. 'Who are you?' asks the knight. 'I am Death.' Bengt Ekerot and I agreed that Death should have the features of a white clown. An amalgamation of a clown mask and a skull. It was a delicate and dangerous artistic move, which could have failed. Suddenly, an actor appears in whiteface, dressed all in black, and announces that he is Death. Everyone accepted the dramatic feat that he was Death, instead of saying, 'Come on now, don't try to put something over us! You can't fool us! We can see that you are just a talented actor who is painted white and clad in black! You're not Death at all!' But nobody protested. That made me feel triumphant and joyous.
Interview with Jan Aghed, published in the Swedish daily newspaper Sydsvenska Dagbladet (May 2002)
Among today's directors I'm of course impressed by Steven Spielberg and Scorsese, and Coppola, even if he seems to have ceased making films, and Steven Soderbergh — they all have something to say, they're passionate, they have an idealistic attitude to the filmmaking process. Soderbergh's Traffic is amazing. Another great couple of examples of the strength of American cinema is American Beauty and Magnolia.
I don't watch my own films very often. I become so jittery and ready to cry...
I liked Truffaut a lot, I've felt a lot of admiration for his way to address the audience, and his storytelling.... La nuit américaine is adorable, and another film I like to see is L'enfant sauvage, with its fine humanism.
Variant translation: I liked Truffaut enormously, I admired him. His way of relating with an audience, of telling a story, is both fascinating and tremendously appealing. It's not my style of storytelling, but it works wonderfully well in relation to the film medium.
I've never gotten anything out of his movies. They have felt constructed, faux intellectual and completely dead. Cinematographically uninteresting and infinitely boring. Godard is a fucking bore. He's made his films for the critics. One of the movies, Masculin, féminin, was shot here in Sweden. It was mindnumbingly boring.
I've never liked Welles as an actor, because he's not really an actor. In Hollywood you have two categories, you talk about actors and personalities. Welles was an enormous personality, but when he plays Othello, everything goes down the drain, you see, that's when he's croaks. In my eyes he's an infinitely overrated filmmaker.
For me he's just a hoax. It's empty. It's not interesting. It's dead. Citizen Kane, which I have a copy of — is all the critics' darling, always at the top of every poll taken, but I think it's a total bore. Above all, the performances are worthless. The amount of respect that movie's got is absolutely unbelievable.
He's done two masterpieces, you don't have to bother with the rest. One is Blow-Up, which I've seen many times, and the other is La Notte, also a wonderful film, although that's mostly because of the young Jeanne Moreau. In my collection I have a copy of Il Grido, and damn what a boring movie it is. So devilishly sad, I mean. You know, Antonioni never really learned the trade... He concentrated on single images, never realising that film is a rhythmic flow of images, a movement. Sure, there are brilliant moments in his films. But I don't feel anything for L'Avventura, for example. Only indifference. I never understood why Antonioni was so incredibly applauded. And I thought his muse Monica Vitti was a terrible actress.
Variant translation: Antonioni has never properly learnt his craft. He's an aesthete. If, for example, he needs a certain kind of road for The Red Desert, then he gets the houses repainted on the damned street. That is the attitude of an aesthete. He took great care over a single shot, but didn't understand that a film is a rhythmic stream of images, a living, moving process; for him, on the contrary, it was such a shot, then another shot, then yet another. So, sure, there are some brilliant bits in his films... I can't understand why Antonioni is held in such high esteem.
We were supposed to collaborate once, and along with Kurosawa make one love story each for a movie produced by Dino de Laurentiis. I flew down to Rome with my script and spent a lot of time with Fellini while we waited for Kurosawa, who finally couldn't leave Japan because of his health, so the project went belly-up. Fellini was about to finish Satyricon. I spent a lot of time in the studio and saw him work. I loved him both as a director and as a person, and I still watch his movies, like La Strada and that childhood rememberance...
The Seventh Seal was always my favourite film, and I remember seeing it with a small audience at the old New Yorker Theatre. Who would have thought that the subject matter could yield such a pleasurable experience? If I described the story and tried to persuade a friend to watch it with me, how far would I get? 'Well,' I'd say, 'it takes place in a plague-ridden medieval Sweden and explores the limits of faith and reason based on Danish — and some German — philosophical concepts.' Now this is hardly anyone's idea of a good time, and yet it's all dealt off with such stupendous imagination, suspense, and flair that one sits riveted like a child at a harrowing fairy tale. Suddenly the black figure of Death appears on the seashore to claim his victim, and the Knight of Reason challenges him to a chess game, trying to stall for time and discover some meaning to life. The tale engages and stalks forward with sinister inevitability. Again, the images are breathtaking! The flagellants, the burning of the witch (worthy of Carl Dreyer), and the finale, as Death dances off with all the doomed people to the nether lands in one of the most memorable shots in all movies. Bergman is prolific, and the films that followed these early works were rich and varied, as his obsession moved from God's silence to the tortured relations between anguished souls trying to make sense of their feelings.
Woody Allen in "Through a Life Darkly" a review of The Magic Lantern : An Autobiography as translated by Joan Tate (1988) in The New York Times (18 September 1988).
I was very saddened by the death of Ingmar Bergman. He was a friend and certainly the greatest film artist of my lifetime. … He told me that he was afraid that he would die on a very, very sunny day and I can only hope it was overcast and he got the weather he wanted
I think his films have eternal relevance, because they deal with the difficulty of personal relationships and lack of communication between people and religious aspirations and mortality, existential themes that will be relevant a thousand years from now. When many of the things that are successful and trendy today will have been long relegated to musty-looking antiques, his stuff will still be great.
During a career that spans some four decades, he has made about 50 movies, and in those movies he has created an immediately recognizable world. Whether it is the distant allegorical realm of The Seventh Seal or the banal domestic one of Scenes From a Marriage, this world is a place where faith is tenuous; communication, elusive; and self-knowledge, illusory at best. God is either silent (as in Winter Light) or malevolent (as in The Silence), and Bergman's characters find themselves ruled, instead, by the capricious ghosts and demons of the unconscious. More persuasively than any other director, Bergman has mapped out the geography of the individual psyche — its secret yearnings and its susceptibility to memory and desire.
I believe Bergman, De Sica, and Fellini are the only three filmmakers in the world who are not just artistic opportunists. By this I mean they don't just sit and wait for a good story to come along and then make it. They have a point of view which is expressed over and over and over again in their films, and they themselves write or have original material written for them.
For me the filmmaker Bergman is the greatest actor of all. His vision and his filmic force, the thing that the Frenchmen call auteur. What Kurosawa and Fellini also have — but to me Bergman is number one!
Bergman is undeniably one of the great directors, but he has always stood for more than the sum of his films. From the first, he was regarded … as a visionary who grappled with the Big Questions of God and Man. His symbol-thick films were drenched in the night sweats of mortal torment. He was the kind of artist we had been brought up to believe was the real deal: He suffered for our souls.
Bergman was the first to bring metaphysics — religion, death, existentialism — to the screen. … But the best of Bergman is the way he speaks of women, of the relationship between men and women. He’s like a miner digging in search of purity.
I have a horror of tags and labels. I don't understand, for instance, how people can talk about Bergman's "symbolism." Far from being symbolic, he seems to me, through and almost biological naturalism, to arrive at the spiritual truth about human life that is important to him.