Thursday, October 04, 2007

You think you are an artist?

Do you care about Ingmar Bergman's work?

Even if you don't (or you don't care about cinema at all), here's something that the great Swedish filmmaker has said on the subject of art, films and craftsmanship, that should make every artist stop in his trail for a while and ask himself/herself some relevant questions:

On film and craftsmanship…what’s creativity?

My films involve good craftsmanship. I am conscientious, industrious and extremely careful. I do my work for everyday purposes and not for eternity; and my pride is the pride of a good craftsman.

Yet I know that what I tell myself is self-deception and an incessant anxiety calls out to me: What have you done that will endure? Is there a single metre in any one of your films that will mean something for the future, one single line, one single situation that is completely and absolutely real?

And with the sincere person's deep-rooted inclination to lie I must answer; I do not know, but I think so.

On art and worship

Regardless of my own beliefs and my own doubts, which are completely without importance in this connection, it is my opinion that art lost its creative urge the moment it was separated from worship. It severed the umbilical cord and lives its own sterile life, generating and degeneration itself. The individual has become the highest form and greatest bane of artistic creation. Creative unity and humble anonymity are forgotten and buried relics without significance or meaning. The smallest cuts and moral pains of the ego are examined under the microscope as if they were of eternal importance.

Thus we finally gather in one large pen, where we stand and bleat about our loneliness without listening to each other and without realising that we are smothering each other to death. The individualists stare into each other's eyes and yet deny the existence of each other, and cry out into the darkness without once receiving the healing power of communal happiness. We are so affected by our own walking in circles, so limited by our own anxiety that we can no longer distinguish between the true and the false, between the gangster's ideas and pure ideals.

If thus I am asked what I should like to be the general purpose for my films, 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 or a devil - or perhaps a saint - out of stone. It does not matter which, it is the feeling of contentment that matters. Regardless whether I believe or not, regardless whether I am a Christian or not, I play my part at the collective building or cathedral. For I am an artist and a craftsman; and I know how to chisel stone into faces and figures.

I never need to concern myself about present opinion or the judgment of the posterity. I am a name which has not been recorded anywhere and which will disappear when I myself disappear; but a little part of me will live on in the triumphant masterwork of the anonymous craftsmen. A dragon, a devil, or perhaps a saint, it does not matter which.

For the latter quote, I think if you watch Bergman's video interview (below), he says he does not exactly see art and worship related with an umbilical cord but he still insists on the utilitarian objectives of cinema (art).


Suzan Abrams said...

Ingmar Bergman passed away a few months ago, Zafar.
He was especially famous for his films that involved the personal emotional complications hounding women. He based his curt scripts - all of which would have made wonderful food for thought in the edited craftsmanship of the novel - on the sharp acute pain of angst and the power of a body language which richly served this trait.
I became interested in his films from the intense celebration of his work that is constantly heralded here in the UK.

Zafar Anjum said...

Hi Suzan, thanks for sharing your views here. Yes, I know Bergman passed away a few months ago and I even wrote about it on this blog. But the filmmaker's thoughts keep stirring me...and so this post. He was a true artist and he followed his own instincts.

Suzan Abrams said...

Hi Zaf,
Hope you had an enjoyable Ramadhan. :-)
Yes, I know what you mean about your thoughts being stirred by the late film-maker. It's the same with me, especially with the scripts and the play on body language.