Bergman’s intuition and the “universe” of his films

Excerpts from Talking with Ingmar Bergman [Edited by G. William Jones]

INTUITION, to me, is my instrument. It has been for my whole life. Not only in the creative process, but also with you when we meet. My intuition is always at work. It always work on overtime. I have trained my intuition many, many years. I have been now in this profession, not only filmmaking but also with theater — and that is very important to me, because if I had to make a choice, I would choose theater. In theater work with actors, you really have to work with your intuition, and your intuition is your instrument. When you meet other people, when you have to make decisions. You know, a director has to make about five thousand decisions a day, and if I sat down, thinking about how to decide, there would be no picture. So, I always work together with my intuition.

Jones: How does intuition work along with rationality and structuring and all that sort of thing?

I have learned by experience that, at the moment when I start to discuss with my intuition, I always make a wrong decision. That’s true. I always decide on the basis of my intuition. […] So, if you can imagine — I throw a spear into the dark. That’s my intuition. And then, I have to send an expedition into the jungle, very slowly — that is my intellect — to find the spear, and to find the way to the spear. And that is absolutely another process. Those are two absolutely different processes. I must know why I have decided like that. Why is the spear here, and not there?

Jones: So the rational follows and fulfills the intuitional?

It is a very, very boring process, yes.

Asked by a student of the Columbia University about “what was never meant to be there” in his films, meaning the symbols that people see in his work, Ingmar Bergman answered:

I have never made a symbol in my whole life. That’s true! Honestly! And if I find a symbol, I kill it because to me, my pictures are like my dreams. Of course, you know we have learned our dreams are full of symbols. I don’t mind. If a train goes in a tunnel, I say, “Okay”. But I don’t use that symbol, because also in my dreams, I have a very strange censorship. For a long time, I made notes about my dreams, to the point where I found out that in my dreams I was already starting to censor. I was aware that I was going to write about my dream later, so the dream started to be self-conscious.

So, no, there are no symbols in my pictures. What I hate most of all in art is the self-conscious symbol, the symbol that is put here like a strawberry on the ice cream. I think that’s terrible, terrible!

I think that the cinematography of the human face has brought to us the most fantastic thing that we can see in art. That is, the human face in movement. […] No other art had the chance to do that and did it, but cinematography has made it possible for us to look at the human being like that. We sit there, and we can see the thousands of muscles here around the eyes, around the lips. We can see how the blood comes and goes in the face. We can see, and we can be fascinated by, the human face in movement. […] I am mad about the human face, and I think the camera is a most fantastic instrument that exists to study the human face and the human being, and if I want to study the human face, the background has to be quiet and to shut up. I just want to have the human face, to have the background be quiet. When I want a landscape, okay. It’s wonderful to go to a place with a landscape and to find the right way to talk about it. I think, in the Autumn Sonata, I have just two scenes outside the house. One scene when Liv [Ulmann] sits in the churchyard in Norway, in northern Norway, very alone, with the mountains behind her. You know, suddenly, it gives you an enormous impression of loneliness. So that is the reason [to have shifted almost everything indoors with a set].

You must know, a script is something very crazy. You try, you have ideas, visions. You hear people talk to each other. You see scenes. You see atmospheres, tensions, and then you have to sit down and write it into words. And then you have to go from the words to materialize the words into the effects in the shooting. That is a very perverse and difficult and complicated way to go.

Often I have said to myself, “Good heavens! The musicians, what a wonderful way they have to work! They have their notes and the bars and the tune, and they know exactly“. The notes are the most wonderful medium between the creative man and the one who executes. But to go from vision to words and to materialize the vision on the screen is so extremely difficult. You must have people around you — collaborators — who have an intuition, a feeling, an emotional parallel. That doesn’t pertain only to the actors, but to everybody involved — the man who makes the settings, the one who makes the clothes, the eletricians, the man who follows with the focus — everybody must be involved and infected by the script, and must have that feeling for it. That is also the reason why I sit down with all the technicians, with the whole crew, before I start to make a film.

[…] And, you must know something else, people think the director is some sort of dictator. He says, “Do it that way”, and “Do it this way”, and everybody runs around and make it the way he wants it. But I tell you, if it was that way, you couldn’t stand the picture. It would be lousy and terrible, because all of those people I have selected and worked together with for years are great personalities. Only when they know: “I am responsible. I have my own ideas about how this has to be made”, only at that moment can they do their best.

Jones: You have expressed a lot about wanting to communicate with people, the NEED to communicate. […] You outline dilemmas very acutely in your films, but will you ever show a way THROUGH a dilemma, and not just stop with the dilemma?

Sometimes, yes. What is important when you make a picture? You can’t go farther than you can. Do you understand? You can just take the steps you can take. You can’t take another step after that. Perhaps you have seen Through a Glass Darkly? There, I go a step longer than I can. I felt the film stops when the helicopter goes away with the mad girl. That is the end of the picture. But I felt that people needed to have an explanation, to have some sort of contact, to have some moment of something else. So, I wrote that last scene, and that is terrible for me today. It is unfair, in a way, because it is a little bit of a lie. Not at that moment when I made it, but today, it is a bit of a lie. I tried to make something that I couldn’t. So sometimes, I know a solution, and then I try to show the solution, but sometimes I can only give the tension, the problem, the situation. Then, I give the problem and the situation and leave it to the audience — to the human beings sitting out there — to make their own solutions, to discuss the picture. You can see Scenes from a Marriage. People think there is an optimistic end to that picture. I don’t think so, because I know those two people, Johan and Marianne. They are coming now into real difficulties, new lives, new compromises, and they have to go ahead with that. When I write a script with some sort of solution, I know the solution before[hand], but mostly I think my pictures are just suggestions. I put it here. Please, take it, use it, leave it, do with it what you want.

Jones: You used to say about people’s use of your films, “I hope that perhaps the light in your soul, that it will change a little”. Do you still say that?

It’s possible. It would be the best of all, you know, if once in one of my pictures, only one human being had got something out of it for his life, for his daily life or for his future. I would be happy. That is the whole reason. If people use my pictures, it doesn’t matter if they are angry or agressive or critical, but just that they are emotionally involved with my pictures. That is the only thing that is important to me.


via The Criterion Collection (Youtube)  |  Em inglês, sem legendas

Nenhum outro meio da arte — nem a pintura ou a poesia — pode comunicar a qualidade específica do sonho tão bem como um filme. Em um sonho, o tempo e o espaço não existem, e o cinema é equipado excepcionalmente para alterar a percepção dessas propriedades pelos espectadores. 

Ingmar Bergman

Posted by: Jussara

Posted by: Jussara

Cena de “Infidelidade” (Trolosa – 2000)  |  Direção: Liv Ullmann  |  Roteiro: Ingmar Bergman

Life (God, maybe?) is sadistic. That’s the only reason… or there’s no reason at all.

Probably no reason at all. There’s no point on blaming God for a senseless and stupid life.

Posted by: Jussara

Cena de “Infidelidade” (Trolosa – 2000)  |  Direção: Liv Ullmann  |  Roteiro: Ingmar Bergman

And they are ALL doomed!