Ross on Bergman on Faith & Art

From my good friend Ross Richie:

What follows is one of the most inspiring pieces I have read regarding our
work as Christian artists…and it doesn’t come from the pen of a
“Christian” artist. Of course, he was one of the most theologically astute
filmmakers western cinema has known. I find this especially poignant coming
from this filmmaker knowing his “searching” heart. Forget our visions and
purposes, this is what we all should ultimately be striving for.

I would always have great success when I would use this giving talks to
churches about Christians and the arts.

Ladies and Gentlemen — Ingmar Bergman:

“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, laborers, 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 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 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.”