by Ingmar Bergman
Artistic creativity in me has always manifested itself as hunger. With quiet satisfaction I have acknowledged this need, but I have never in my whole conscious life asked myself where this hunger has come from and why it kept demanding satisfaction. During these last few years, as the hunger begins to abate, I feel a certain urgency to seek out the very reason for my activity.
A very early childhood memory is my strong need to show off whatever I have accomplished; skill in drawing, the art of hitting a ball against a wall, my first strokes when I learned how to swim.
I remember that I had a strong desire to draw the adults’ attention to these manifestations of my presence in the world. I felt that my fellow beings never paid enough attention to me. Whenever I found reality wanting, I would begin to fantasize, to regale my contemporaries with wild stories about my secret exploits. Those were embarrassing lies, which without fail broke into pieces against the surrounding world’s sober scepticism. Finally I withdrew from the real world and kept my dream world to myself. A contact-seeking and fantasy-obsessed child had been rather quickly transformed into a wounded and sly daydreamer.
But a daydreamer is not an artist except in his dreams.
It was obvious that cinematography would have to become my means of expression. I expressed myself by means of a language which transcended the world around me in a language which literally allowed soul-to-soul communication in terms which, almost sensuously, escape the restrictive control of the intellect.
With all the pent-up hunger of the child I was, I threw myself at my chosen medium and for twenty years I have tirelessly, and in a kind of frenzy, supplied dreams, sense experiences, fantasies, insane outbursts, neuroses, cramped faith, and pure unadulterated lied. My hunger has endlessly renewed itself. Money, fame, and success have been surprising, but basically indifferent, consequences of my rampage. Having said that, I am in no way downgrading of negating what I have possibly accomplished. Art as self-satisfaction obviously has its value, especially to the artist.
So if I want to be completely honest, art (not just the ort of the cinema) is for m unimportant.
Literature, painting, music, film and theater give birth to and feed upon themselves. New mutations, new combinations occur and are destroyed; viewed from the outside the movement seems feverishly vital, nourished by the artists' unbridled eagerness to project to themselves and to a more and more distracted audience a world that has ceased to ask what they think. In a few places in the world artists are punished, art itself is seen as a threat which must be fought of kept under control. Generally speaking, however, art is free, shameless, irresponsible, and as I said: its constant movement is intense, almost feverish; it resembles, in my opinion, a snake's skin full of ants. The snake is long since dead, emptied, deprived of its poison, but the skin moves, full of bustling life.
I hope and believe that others have a more balanced and allegedly objective opinion. If I raise all these tedious matters and if despite all I’ve said I claim I still want to create art, there is a very simple reason (putting aside all the purely material motivations).
The reason is curiosity. A limitless, never satisfied, ever renewed unbearable curiosity, drives my forward, never leaves me in peace; it has completely replaced my hunger for contact and fellowship of earlier times.
I feel like a prisoner who, after a long detention, suddenly stumbles out into the hurly-burly of life. I am in the grip of an uncontrollable curiosity. I note, I observe, I look everywhere; everything is unreal, fantastic, frightening, or ridiculous. I catch a speck of dust floating in the air; maybe it’s the germ of a film – what does it matter? It doesn’t matter, but I find it interesting, therefore I insist that it is a film. I come and go with this object that belongs to me, and I care for it with joy or sorrow. I push and am pushed by others ants; we are doing a colossal piece of work. The snakeskin moves. This, and only this, is my truth. I don’t ask that it be true for anybody else, and as a solace for eternity it’s obviously rather slim pickings, but as a foundation for artistic activity for a few more years it is in fact enough, at least for me.
To be an artist for one’s own sake is not always pleasant. But it has one enormous advantage; the artist shares his condition with every other living being who also exists solely for his own sake. When all is said and done, we doubtless constitute a fairly large brotherhood, which thus exists within a selfish community on our warm and filthy earth, beneath a cold and empty sky.
1965 when developing Persona