From Alfred Hitchcock to Andrei Tarkovsky: Ingmar Bergman gives his opinion on fellow filmmakers
A major part of the discourse of film is what filmmakers have to say about the works of their predecessors and their contemporaries. These discussions often end up contributing valuable insights that shape future interpretations of films. Often, many directors debate each other about the art of filmmaking directly, like the 1974 conversation between acclaimed film directors Francis Ford Coppola and Brian De Palma. On other occasions, auteurs indulge in passing comments about the works of their fellow artists. This feature chronicles what Swedish director, writer and producer Ingmar Bergman, known for his famously complex films like Persona (1966), The Seventh Seal (1957) and Wild Strawberries (1957), had to say about the filmographies of vastly diverse directors, from Jean-Luc Godard to Alfred Hitchcock.
One of the finest Italian filmmakers, Michelangelo Antonioni, director of films like 1964 effort Red Desert and Blow-Up (1966) struck Bergman as an “aesthete”. According to fan site Bergmanorama and relayed by Open Culture, Bergman was perplexed by the critical appreciation for Antonioni and thought he had, “never properly learnt his craft. He’s an aesthete. If, for example, he needs a certain kind of road for The Red Desert, then he gets the houses repainted on the damned street.”
He added: “That is the attitude of an aesthete. He took great care over a single shot, but didn’t understand that a film is a rhythmic stream of images, a living, moving process; for him, on the contrary, it was such a shot, then another shot, then yet another. So, sure, there are some brilliant bits in his films… [but] I can’t understand why Antonioni is held in such high esteem.”
Bergman was particularly impressed with the technical ability of American director, Alfred Hitchcock. The film that stood out to him, perhaps unsurprisingly, was the 1960 thriller Psycho. Hitchcock, Bergman said, was “a very good technician. And he has something in Psycho, he had some moments. Psycho is one of his most interesting pictures because he had to make the picture very fast, with very primitive means. He had little money, and this picture tells very much about him. Not very good things. He is completely infantile, and I would like to know more — no, I don’t want to know — about his behaviour with, or, rather, against women. But this picture is very interesting.”
The Swedish director expressed his disdain for the self-indulgent films of his contemporary, French-Swiss auteur, Jean-Luc Godard. Speaking of Godard, he said, “I’ve never been able to appreciate any of his films, nor even understand them… I find his films affected, intellectual, self-obsessed and, as cinema, without interest and frankly dull… I’ve always thought that he made films for critics.”
Ingmar Bergman considered Andrei Tarkovsky to be “the greatest of them all”. He cited Marcel Carné and Julien Duvivier as “decisive influences in (his) wanting to become a filmmaker”. He was also full of praise for Italian director, Federico Fellini, whose scorching creativity “melts him” and François Truffaut’s interesting “way of relating with an audience”. Bergman’s comments about the works of Mexican-Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel is also indicative of his dislike for self-obsessed films and serves as a warning to aspiring artists. He says, “Tarkovsky began to make Tarkovsky films and that Fellini began to make Fellini films.” Buñuel, unfortunately, “nearly always made Buñuel films.” It appears that Bergman wanted all filmmakers to steer clear of postmodern self-reflexivity.