Conversations: Ingmar Bergman and John Simon
Simon: Are there any young film-makers that you particularly like? I hope you don’t like Godard?
Bergman: No, no, no.
S: I detest him.
B: Yes, I do, too. In this profession, I always admire people who are going on, who have a sort of idea and, however crazy it is, are putting it through; they are putting people and things together, and they make something. I always admire this. But I can’t see his pictures. I sit for perhaps twenty-five or thirty or fifty minutes and then I have to leave, because his pictures make me so nervous. I have the feeling the whole time that he wants to tell me things, but I don’t understand what it is, and sometimes I have the feeling that he’s bluffing, double-crossing me….
S: What about Bellocchio? Have you seen China Is Near?
B: Terrible, terrible, very homosexual, very artificial, aggressive in a very empty way.
S: What about the early Truffaut? Did you like those first ones?
B: Very much; very, very much.
S: What’s happened to this man?
B: He wants to make money; it’s a very human desire. He wants a comfortable life. He wants to make money and he wants people to see his pictures.
S: Well, don’t you think his early films were seen by people?
B: But perhaps not by enough, and he didn’t make enough money, and he likes the comfortable life of the modern film-maker.
S: But the trouble is his new films are not going to make much money.
B: Then he made a mistake. Because if you lose both the money and your dignity, then it must be a mistake.
S: What about Bresson? How do you feel about him?
B: Oh, Mouchette! I loved it, I loved it! But Balthazar was so boring, I slept through it.
S: I liked Les Dames Du Bois De Boulogne and A Man Escaped, but I would say Diary Of A Country Priest is the best one.
B: I have seen it four or five times and could see it again…and Mouchette…really…
S: That film doesn’t do anything for me.
B: No? You see, now I’ll tell you something about Mouchette. It starts with a friend who sees the girl sitting and crying, and Mouchette says to the camera, how shall people go on living without me, that’s all. Then you see the main titles. The whole picture is about that. She’s a saint and she takes everything upon herself, inside her, everything that happens around her. That makes such an enormous difference, that such people live among us. I don’t believe in another life, but I do think that some people are more holy than others and make life a little bit easier to endure, more bearable…that is my feeling, but this Balthazar, I don’t understand a word of it, it was so completely boring.
S: You could almost say the same thing about the donkey, that when the donkey has taken on other people’s suffering…
B: A donkey, to me, is completely uninteresting, but a human being is always interesting.
S: Do you like animals in general?
B: No, not very much. I have a completely natural aversion for them. Have you seen this picture Il Porcile (Pigpen)?
S: Yes, terrible. I think Pasolini is awful altogether.
B: Yes, awful, awful. Meaningless. Completely.
S: There was a period in your life and work when the question of God was all-important, but not anymore, surely?
B: No, it’s passed. Things are difficult enough without God. They were much more difficult when I have to put God into it. But now it’s finished, definitely, and I’m happy about it.
From Ingmar Bergman Directs by John Simon (1972).