Building Ingmar Bergman’s 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 others’ 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)

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His movies inflict this kind of an acute emotional and spiritual pain that no other sort of celluloid reality is able to do…

It asks for a consideration – is it one’s personal predisposition that makes an individual so vulnerable to the artist’s emotional roulette; or is it ‘just’ the common human feature – that one strives for empathy and compassion identifying with the characters, and always at the expanse of his/her inner equilibrium?

But Bergman is not dancing any genius yet cruel vengeance dance – or so we are bound to believe in … He is building a ‘cathedral’ out of our ‘common’ human clay – the space of some transcendent sense of things… All by carving a piece of art/a movie – a ‘dragon’s head, an angel, a devil’ from the frozen avalanche of our emotions…

Little invention here, little help there; a sacrifice and the apparent brotherhood of tens working arm in arm with the same irrational aims in minds…

Here is the re-building of wonder and awe, here is the struggle to create, the pain to re-connect human beings with themselves and with each other…

But – prosaically speaking – here is also the sweat, the mud, the aborted ‘ego’s and the nearly lethal fatigue….

Here is the artist’s way…

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Inspired by I. Bergman’s ‘Autumn Sonata’

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About kasia

Born in Poland. Lives in Ireland, Cork. Visual artist. View all posts by kasia

One response to “Building Ingmar Bergman’s cathedral…

  • bessfones

    …between the gangster’s whim and the purist’s ideal. I recently watched Haneke’s “White Ribbon” but thought Bergman depicted human cruelty with more clarity and artistry.

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