Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Ingmar Bergman on Art & Worship

Ingmar Bergman was a filmmaker who was particularly known for depicting rather dark stories on the silver screen. A few years ago, a friend shared this quote with me (in bold font below) that I found to be really intriguing, and quite insightful. I'd love to hear your thoughts on his statements.

“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 ganter'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.”


Kim G. said...

"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."

Wow - what a great quote. This would make for great discussion at one of our artist's nights. I hate to ride the fence on this one, but in some instances, it is the artist's story that makes the art what it is as much as the medium in which it's expressed. And so, anonymous art seems like it would be a shadow of what it really could be. Yet as one who can so identify with the "anxiety circles" that he talks of, the shackles of expectations that seem to paralyze me when I think of what is expected of my "creations" I can only imagine the freedom that would come with anonymity in creating. Even blogging brings that to bear - what don't I write because of who reads, what they will think, the judgments they will form. If it's that way with a silly little online journal, how much do I self-edit on anything that I believe will go out to an even broader audience? I think it's one of the main reasons I'm still struggling with even trying to submit any of my work out there in the "real world".

Thanks for the very interesting quote!

Mordecai Lament said...

I think sometimes as Artists, we put too much of our identity into a piece of art. Perhaps its cliche and all, but our identity is not found in what we do. It's found in our ultimate reality, that of Jesus Christ. We were created in the image of God and as such, was declared "good." That takes a lot of pressure off of me. I don't have to worry about what other people think anymore. It doesn't matter.

Okay, now that I am free through what Christ has done for me as a person and I have been bought with a price where does that leave me? If anything, that pushes me as an artist to another level. I feel that as an artist, I have an obligation to slam it into fifth gear. Why?

As you pointed out a few weeks ago, Dean, the altar is a place of death. If I haven't left everything on the altar and if I haven't left my very best on that altar, then all I've done is successfully gone through the motions. The idea of worship is closely linked with sacrifice and the two can't be divorced. When it comes to worship (and in my opinion, not just worship but of life in general), God doesn't ask anything of us that he has not done himself.

So, if art=worship and worship=sacrifice, then I as an artist have an obligation to invest time, money, blood, sweat, and in some cases, tears into our art to make it stand out. Not so we can go make a name for ourselves, that's not the point. The point is so that we honor and lift on high the name of the One who bought us with his blood. We are living sacrifices and that is our reasonable service.

Bleh, I hope that made sense. I'll echo the thanks for that thought provoking quote.

Matt Mikalatos said...

That's a great quote.

Where is it from?