< Return to Adherents.com's Guide to Movies
< Return to Religion of the 25 Most Influential Film Directors
< Return to Famous Lutherans
The Religious Affiliation of Director
Ingmar Bergman was raised in a devout Lutheran home in Sweden. His father was a Lutheran minister in the national Church of Sweden. As an adult Bergman was generally not a churchgoer. Bergman religious beliefs have evolved over the years, to agnosticism. Nearly all of Bergman's films are infused with a strong presense of religious content, particularly themes and imagery from Christianity in general and Lutheranism specifically.
From "The Influence of Foreign Films," by Dr. Charles Frost, Middle Tennessee State University (URL: http://www.mtsu.edu/~socwork/frost/god/foreignfilms.htm)
...Ingmar Bergman (no relation to Ingrid)... was born in 1918 in Uppsala, Sweden, the son of a stern Lutheran pastor who eventually became chaplain to Sweden's royal family. "Bergman was raised under strict discipline, on occasion spending hours in a dark closet for infractions of his father's rigid ethical code. The traumatic experiences of his childhood were later to play a significant role in his work as a stage and film director" (Film Encyclopedia, p. 120)... The film that catapulted him into fame was The Seventh Seal (1957) which dealt "allegorically and agonizingly with the philosophy and metaphysics of humans' relationship to God and their encounters with the idea of death" (Film Encyclopedia, p. 120)... "Bergman's spiritual quest is at the center of the films he made in the middle of his career. The Seventh Seal opens that period, in which he asked, again and again, why God seemed absent from the world" [Roger Ebert. The Great Movies. Broadway Books: N.Y., 2002, p. 408]... Is God absent from the world? For Bergman, whose father was a representative of God, whose father locked him up in closets, the question is crucial. For him God "seemed" absent.
From: Richard A. Blake, S.J. (a Jesuit), "Finding God at the Movies ... And why Catholic churches produce Catholic Filmmakers", website: Woodstock Theological Center (http://www.georgetown.edu/centers/woodstock/report/r-fea79a.htm):
...I have done some work on the Jewish background of Woody Allen and the Lutheran background of the Swedish master Ingmar Bergman...
Bergman recalls that his father was a clergyman, and discusses how he had an avid, almost obsessive, interest in film even from early childhood. From: Stig Bjorkman, Torsten Manns and Jonas Sima, Bergman on Bergman: Interviews with Ingmar Bergman (translated by Paul Britten Austin), Simon and Schuster: New York (1973 English translation; original Swedish edition 1970), pages 6-7:
STIG BJORKMAN [INTERVIEWER]: Can you tell us something about the genesis of your interest in films and theater?
About early in Bergman's film career, from: Bergman on Bergman, pages 12-14:
INGMAR BERGMAN: It's all so deeply buried in my childhood I can hardly remember. 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.
[Bergman went to see films every week at Castle Cinema. He was fascinated by the movie projector, and he would watch from the movie projection room, where he befriended the projectionist. He would sometimes cuddle with the projectionist. He states "I don't think anything untoward happened. Anyway, I remember thinking there was something not quitenice abouthim and so gradually I stopped going there." Bergman was "ten or eleven" years old at the time.]
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.
JS [INTERVIEWER JONAS SIMA]: 'Forsner's'. Were they a well-known dealer?
INGMAR BERGMAN: Yes, a Stockholm photographic firm, in Hamngatan. 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.
As long as I live I'll never forget what it looked like... [Bergman recounts in excquisite detail what the projector was like and he used it to watch little circular strips of short films that were available, as well as to project color slides.]
SB [INTERVIEWER STIG BJORKMAN]: Did you feel any solidarity with the social, cultural, and philosophical currents of the mid-forties?
Bergman on Bergman, pages 17-18:
INGRID BERGMAN: Then came existentialism--Sartre and Camus. Above all, Sartre. Camus came later, with a sort of refined existentialism. I came into contact with it in the theatre, among other thins in connection with my production of Caligula and Anders Ek at the Bothenburg City Theatre in 1946. But its innter political and social contexts largely left me cold...
That I wasn' tinterested 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.
INGMAR BERGMAN: the salvation-damnation issue [portrayed in Bergman's early film and theater work], 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 and no little subjected to material humiliations.
...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.
SB [INTERVIEWER]: You give an account of your experiences of the world. But you don't make films programmatically?
Bergman on Bergman, page 40:
INGMAR BERGMAN: No, never tied to any ideology. I can't. For me nothing of that exists.
JS [INTERVIEWER]: Yet at the same time you're rigorously faithful to your own basic view of things. People like to see the films you've made as constituting a single whole.
INGMAR BERGMAN: 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...
JS: In today's society is it really possible to have no ideology? However difficult it may be, surely one is obliged to adopt some political attitude.
INGMAR BERGMAN: 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 rol in over our ultra-individuallized existence. Otherwise I'm a respectable social democrat.
TM [INTERVIEWER]: And here [in Bergman's film The Devil's Wanton] your belief in the Devil makes its first appearance?
Bergman on Bergman, page 42:
INGMAR BERGMAN: 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.
...TM: You regard witch-trials as part of this phenomenon?
INGMAR BERGMAN: Three little children go out for a walk together--two little girls aged four, with a little boy or two. They take a skipping-rope with them. They put it round the neck of the two-year-old and tie the ends to a couple of trees-just high enough for the boy to have to stand on tip-toe. And walk away. And we don't know what it is that causes these two to agree to do such athing.
SB: The Moors murder in England . . .
INGMAR BERGMAN: There's been a whole series of such events. 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.
INGMAR BERGMAN: Melies [i.e., Georges Melies] is one of my household gods. Fancy making a film one morning and having its premiere next evening and going on like that until one has made fifty-two films in a year!
Bergman on Bergman, pages 80-81:
INGMAR BERGMAN: You're always prodding me on this business of romanticising the artist; and it's quite possibly my way of seeing the matter is out of date. I don't know. Obviously there's a more modern view of art and artists and of the terms on which the artist exists; but the humiliation motif is of the very essence. One of the strongest feelings I remember from my childhood is, precisely, of being humiliated; of being knocked about by words, acts, or situations.
Bergman on Bergman, page 86:
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...
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...
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!
SB [INTERVIEWER]: The action of Sawdust and Tinsel occurs within twenty-four hours, and the film's main figure is Albert. Almost the entire film is seen through his eyes. There are really only two episodes without him: the dream--the story about Frost and Alma--and the parallel action with Anne and Franks... Why did you choose this dream and the parallel action with Anne?
Bergman on Bergman, page 117:
INGMAR BERGMAN: I'm not at all dogmatic. Or at least I wasn't then, and still am not. But I went through an intensely dogmatic and formalistic period--a sort of attack of purism. It passed over afterwards. The dream was the starting point for the whole of Sawdust and Tinsel. It was the basis for the whole film. The dream is the theme.
JS [INTERVIEWER]: In [Ingmar Bergman's film] The Seventh Seal, Jons, the atheistic squire, says: 'We live in a ghostworld.' The Knight, Block, is seeking knowledge of a god who really exists. But the god remains silent. He exclaims: 'Why can't I kill the god within me?' But when he sees the happiness of the Jof family, he exclaims: 'Faith is great suffering.' In my view this is a rather unpleasant sort of faith, but in the film the Knight himself, on the contrary, is rather a decent fellow. We really feel he is a struggling soul. Chiefly I'm thinking of the execution scene, in which the knight is more interested to know whether the Witch has really seen the devil, than he is in her physical sufferings. But Jons, the atheist, gives her some water.
Bergman on Bergman, page 138:
INGMAR BERGMAN: It's two sides of the same thing. I couldn't agree with you more. 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. But Jons, he's a man of the here-and-now. He feels sympathy, hatred, and scorn; the other bloke is like the echo department of a large organ, placed somewhere up in the rafters.
JS [INTERVIEWER]: Which figure did you fel closest to at that time--1956.
I can't say, really. I've always felt sympathy for the Jonses and the Jofs and the Skats and the Mias. But it's with something more like desperation I've experienced the Blocks inside myself. 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.
JS [INTERVIEWER]: Let's talk a bit about the ideas to be found in Wild Strawberries. It's a psychoanalytic film, with both religious and psychotherapeutic implications.
Bergman on Bergman, page 146:
INGMAR BERGMAN: That wasn't how I experienced it when I was making it. I made it as a rundown of my earlier life, a searching, final test. As for the psychoanalytical aspect, I had no real grip on it. It's other people who've stuck that on afterwards. For me the film is tangible, concrete.
JS [INTERVIEWER]: The psychology [in Ingmar Bergman's film Wild Strawberries] has almost Catholic implications. How conscious were you of them?
Bergman on Bergman, pages 164-167:
INGMAR BERGMAN: Not at all.
JS: The business about Isak Borg's guilt feelings being punished by emotional frigidity and fear of death, and the confession, which is what the journey really is . . . He seems to want to justify himself before dying; to gather some spiritual capital by doing at least one good deed . . .
INGMAR BERGMAN: All that about his son owing him money and wanting to repay it, or Borg cancelling the debt--is that what you're thinking of?
JS: Not, I was seeing it more in a theological light?
INGMAR BERGMAN: I've never been much smitten by Catholicism. I've never been committed to any religious dogma of any sort. The film has an underlying religiosity--a basic attitude--of course it has. But it doesn't clash with the general psychological approach.
SB [INTERVIEWER]: It's along these lines that your Catholic exegetes have interpreted the film . . .
INGMAR BERGMAN: 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.
JS: You've never felt any inclination to convert?
INGMAR BERGMAN: No, I've never felt any attraction to Catholicism. Catholicism, I think, does have its attractions. But Protestantism is a wretched kettle of fish.
TM [INTERVIEWER]: To me the Wild Strawberries narrative seems entirely classical in structure--its purification process, its catharsis-scheme, are almost Aristotelian. Perhaps because you've had so much to do with the theatre?
INGMAR BERGMAN: One finds a loose end, tugs at it; and it all comes out quite simply, hangs together from end to end. All one has to do is follow it carefully to the end.
TM [INTERVIEWER]: ...And this brings us to The Hour of the Wolf. The other central theme, as I see it, is a new sort of concept of God. Until then, God had been a tremendous authoritarian figure, with specified ethical principles. But here he suddenly turns into something ice-cold; a monster, an anonymous being, a spider-god. In Harriet's line: 'A rapist God.' Can you explain this change in your idea of God?
Bergman on Bergman, page 169:
INGMAR BERGMAN: 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. Unquestionably this is one of the main motifs in A Passion [also known as Passion of Anna]. Doesn't the parish clerk in Winter Light parody the confession inn Through a Glass Darkly?
JS [INTERVIEWER]: In the diary Vilgot Sjoman kept while you were making Winter Light, he writes that while you were making Through a Glass Darkly you found great security in this idea of God, the idea of God as love. But that as the filming proceeded you began to doubt it. And this, I think, leads to at least two questions. Is it still your principle never to change anything in the script while shooting? Do you still stick to the script as strictly as you used to?
INGMAR BERGMAN: Nowadays I don't write that sort of script. Nowadays I don't write dialogue at all, only a suggestion of what it could be...
JS: The second part of my question is more theoretical. Why was it just while you were shooting Through a Glass Darkly you came to abandon the idea of a security-God?
INGMAR BERGMAN: It must have been an insight, which gradually took form. It had a great deal to do with my private life. Previously I'd been living in Malmo. Virtually my whole life had been lived in the theatre. Then, suddenly, I veer off at a right angle, get myself a villa in Djursholm, set up house, and lead a bourgeois life which is the split image of my notion of a secure existence--all this just as enthusiastically as I'd earlier lived quite another sort of life. I try to carry through my new role. Perhaps it can give me more security? I collect a lot of material things around me and around them I build up an ideology. Afterwards I discover that it's all utterly crazy, simply doesn't fit together. That it only corresponds to a narrow segment of myself--a sort of groping, backwards into the bourgeois world I'd grown up in, and which I'd been trying to recreate. But then I see it doesn't fit, won't work at all. The result is a deep disappointment, and the entire ideology collapses. And there I stand suddenly, with a huge superstructure and no ideology to bear it up. The result, obviously, is anxiety.
There, I think, you have the exact reason why the intellectual content of Through a Glass Darkly collapsed. And why I carried the film through with such sullen obstinacy--a fierce effort of will, which is noticeable in the film.
TM [INTERVIEWER]: Yes, that's what happens with our desire for security--
INGMAR BERGMAN: 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.
JS [INTERVIEWER]: ...I'd like to quote from Vilgot Sjoman's diary of the filming of Winter Light. At the beginning you say that 'this religious business comes in waves, like an ebb and flood tide'. After your trilogy and your new films, do you think you could succumb again to a religious 'flood-tide' in your filmmaking?
Bergman on Bergman, pages 173-174:
INGMAR BERGMAN: 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.
INGMAR BERGMAN: 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.
Bergman on Bergman, pages 176-178:
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.
JS [INTERVIEWER]: But you invented the fisherman's motives?
INGMAR BERGMAN: Yes, all that about the Chinese and the atomic bomb. But that's nothing remarkable in itself. Quite a lot of people, I fancy, have fallen into a state of anxiety about the Chinese and the atmomic bomb. Not only my fisherman, Jonas Persson.
So 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. No one was there but him and me, well I suppose the clergyman's wife was sitting there too--no, she wasn't, it was the churchwarden; and I suppose a few old women had turned up too. 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, furiouis, 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 wa 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.
P. A. Lundgren built the church in the big studio, and together Nykvist and I began working on a completely new lighting technique...
JS [INTERVIEWER]: Do you categorically deny the Christ symbolism in the figure of Marta [in Bergman's film Winter Light]?
Bergman on Bergman, page 185:
INGMAR BERGMAN: No, I don't deny it. But, it's a complete post facto rationalization. Marta is something of the stuff saints are made of, i.e., hysterical, power-greedy, but also possessed of an inner vision. All that business about the eczema on her hands and forehead, for example. I'd pinched that straight from my second wife. She used to suffer from it and went about with big pieces of sticking plaster on her forehead and bandaged hands. She had an allergic eczema. But that it had anything whatever to do with stigmatization--that's utterly wrong. For me Marta is something furious, alive, intractable, pig-headed, troublesome. A great and--for a dying figure like the clergyman--overwhelming person. When she writes him a letter, it isn't three pages, but twenty-seven pages which flood his desk. At every moment her whole way of speaking to and being with him is overwhelming. When they sink down at the altar-rail she doestn' kiss him once. No, she kisses him twenty-seven times. Slops her kisses all over him. Not for a moment does she reflect that if there's one thing he reeally has no wish for at that moment, it's kisses. She won't give him up. At the same time I believe Marta constitutes the clergyman's only hope of any sort of life. For me she's a monstrosity, a primitive natural force. But the poor clergyman's on the way out.
JS: Have you ever felt yourself to be some sort of religious preacher, a prophet?
INGMAR BERGMAN: Certainly not! For me things have always been 'on the one hand, it's like this--but on the other, like that'.
JS: O'Neill is supposed to have said: 'Drama that doesn't deal with man's relation to God is worthless.'
INGMAR BERGMAN: Yes, and I've often quoted him; and been thoroughly misunderstood. 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. That's what O'Neill meant.
JS: Which--being interpreted--means today one could call you a political film-maker because you're preoccupied with the same sort of ethical problems as the young radicals are, though they've replaced the religious material with the political--something you've done, too, to some extent in The Shame?
INGMAR BERGMAN: 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...
JS: It can do no harm to point out now and again, I think, that ethical problems, moral problems--chiefly perhaps those of a religious nature in a certain social situation and a particular society--also admit of political solutions. Which is the same thing as saying one can't separate ethics from politics.
INGMAR BERGMAN: I was going to say they're the same thing. It's a question of semantics. If we go on like this much longer I'll be getting socially conscious!
JS [INTERVIEWER]: So, when shooting Winter Light, you felt you needed to penetrate some aspect of your idea of God?
Bergman on Bergman, pages 190-195:
INGMAR BERGMAN: It was more or less like this--as Torsten so rightly says--everything had gone to pieces. All this is so deep down in me, there was no question of 'penetrating' it. The Silence is simple. It tells its story by simple means, not with symbols and such antics.
JS: I'm inclined to see something positive in your capitulation--your insight into God's silence as expressive of some maturation process.
INGMAR BERGMAN: Yes, in itself I belive so too, and I think it's to be seen already in Winter Light. Thogh it's very hard to say anything definite about this.
JS [INTERVIEWER]: If one makes a 'close reading' of The Silence, with the sufferings of Christ as the answer to the question, one discovers some astonishing congruences.
Bergman on Bergman, page 219:
INGMAR BERGMAN: But I had no such intention.
JS: If one sees the trilogy as a Passion Story--Gethsemane, the sacrificial death and the grave--then Persona can be seen as the resurrection. The women stand for Christ--Karin in Through a Glass Darkly, Marta Lundberg in Winter Light, Ester in The Silence, and Elisabeth Vogel in Persona.
INGMAR BERGMAN: No, not at all!
JS: Such an interpretation doesn't interest you a scrap?
INGMAR BERGMAN: Not a scrap--it goes altogether too far.
JS: But your exegetes--educated ones--insist on it. They have demonstrated astonishing parallels.
INGMAR BERGMAN: Maybe that's not so odd. 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.
TM [INTERVIEWER]: The doctor in Persona, surely, is a projection of the God-figure. She intervenes so radically. It's really she who's in charge, isn't it?
INGMAR BERGMAN: I say the same as I do in The Rite--I keep myself supplied with my own angels and demons...
JS: There's a connection here with the criticism levelled at the film: in his review of The Silence in Dagens Nyheter, Mauritz Edstrom wrote something interesting. In his opinion you made a fundamental artistic mistake in depicting sick people and then pretending it was al a question of faith and doubt. He wrote: 'He lets schizophrenics struggle with the question of the existence of God, the sex-starved are put forward in the drama of faith and love, and over the solitudes of the death-doomed alcoholic the light falls at the last ashen grey, to the sound of the Last Trump.' What Edstrom means is that the clergyman and God's judgment seat are the wrong forum. These are human problems. As such, they should be treated by the doctor and the psychiatrist. How do you react to such a statement, to this type of criticism?
INGMAR BERGMAN: Mauritz Edstrom comes form a noncomformist background. As far as I can see, he's suffering from a trauma on this point himself.
[page 195] JS: But Edstrom isn't th eonly writer to criticize you in this respect. Others too--not at least abroad--have taken exception to your way of turning psychiatric into religious problems. Behind all this, of course, on perceives a sort of dogmatism.
INGMAR BERGMAN: 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.
JS: It's a common atheistic notion that religiosity is just a symptom of psychosis.
INGMAR BERGMAN: Quite right! Precisely. And in religious circles, one might say, it's the other way around. I find this sort of criticism hard to understand. I don't even feel its relevance. I don't think it has anything to do with the motifs in themselves. To tell you the truth, I don't even understand what Edstrom's talking about. Do you?
JS: My interest is more in the problem of principle. May I ask, was it after The Silence you became an agnostic?
INGMAR BERGMAN What do you mean by an agnostic?
JS Well, an agnostic, I suppose, is someone who, after struggling with a group of problems, just drops them. Since he has found no answer to them, he simply drops them.
INGMAR BERGMAN: Or one might say the problem dissolves. Anyway the crux of the matter is--the problem doesn't exist any more. 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.
JS [INTERVIEWER]: Hasn't your attitude to artistic creativity become somewhat less dramatic than it used to be?
Bergman on Bergman, page 236:
INGMAR BERGMAN: As the religious aspect of my existence was wiped out, life became much easier to live. Sartre has said how inhibited he used to be as an artist and author, how he suffered because what he was doing wasn't good enough. By a slow intellectual process he came to realize that his anxieties about not making anything of value were an atavistic relic from the religious notion that something exists which can be called the Supreme Good, or that anything is perfect. When he'd dug up this secret idea, this relic, had seen through it and amputated it, he lost his artistic inhibitions too.
I've been through something similar. When my top-heavy religious superstructure collapsed, I also lost my inhibitions as a writer. Above all, my fear of notkeeping up with the times. In Winter Light I swept my house clean. Since then things have been quiet on that front.
TM [INTERVIEWER]: You mention Sartre and the religious syndrome. I'd like to get on the question of what view you take of the father, of authority, of the primitive father-image. In your first films, from your play Jack and the Actors to The Hour of the Wolf, you settle accounts several times with the father-image. There's that little creature in the wardrobe which Johan Borg speaks of in The Hour of the Wolf.
Many people have called you a Freudian; but they're wrong. You're really a Jungian. It's Jung who has these atavistic, primitive archetypes--which were originally individual and private, but have acquired a universal validity. This argument can be applied to the homosexual sex-murder which Johan Borg commits on the little boy on the seashore. It's the father he murders--th elittle chap in the cupboard who tries to bit his foot.
INGMAR BERGMAN: 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'.
Bergman on Bergman, pages 240-241:
INGMAR BERGMAN: It's taken from the cult of Dionysius--to drive away the face of the god. You can find it in the Catholic mass. Curious, how things work. In the Catholic mass there's something called the elevation. At a particular moment the priest raises the chalice. That's something he doesn't do in the Lutheran Communion Service. In fact it's forbidden. The Catholic ritual of the elevation is a relic of the cult of Dionysius, whose priest held up the bowl of blood above his head to mirror the face of the god behind his back and so drive the god away.
Webpage created 1 June 2005. Last modified 26 August 2005.
We are always striving to increase the accuracy and usefulness of our website. We are happy to hear from you. Please submit questions, suggestions, comments, corrections, etc. to: firstname.lastname@example.org.