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Film

The one director that made Martin Scorsese feel "anything could be done" in cinema

New Hollywood pioneer Martin Scorsese is often called the greatest living filmmaker and for good reason. His contributions to the world of cinema have shaped the future of American filmmaking, with his works having influenced aspiring artists all over the world. As a leading figure who has repeatedly advocated for visual literacy, Scorsese has reminded multiple generations of the importance of learning from global cinema.

While Scorsese has championed several great directors ranging from Jean Renoir to Paul Thomas Anderson, he has always paid tributes to the films he grow up watching. Among them, the films of Swedish genius Ingmar Bergman have inspired Scorsese the most because he learnt that “anything could be done” in cinema by witnessing the mastery of Bergman.

In an interview, Scorsese explained: “Every time a Bergman film came out, which was very frequent, you knew that there was another level you had to reach to with him where he was going to take you. He may leave you behind a little a lot but you knew that there was something special that you are going to see, and it was going to provoke you creatively. Especially, if you’re deciding to start [making] your own pictures.”

Adding, “The major influence, I would say, was that the inspiration of a Bergman, the opening of the mind, if at all possible, making you feel that anything can be done, [visual] storytelling and with dialogue – looking right at the camera and speaking. This was the key element for me, Bergman, but primarily what was most inspiring all along was, of course, the constant spiritual debate, the transcendent debate.”

This spiritual debate is something that Scorsese has engaged in throughout his career, evident in films like Mean Streets and The Last Temptation of Christ. Scorsese insists that Bergman’s works are immortalised because of the universal nature of the questions he asked about the fundamental truths regarding the human condition.

Scorsese revealed that there were times he did not understand the films but he knew he was witnessing something important: “That’s what really started the compulsion to see the Bergman pictures, even though I didn’t understand a lot of what was happening. Each one of the films was like a little like a conversation with himself… We still grapple with those ideas. That’s why his pictures are not going to be out of fashion.”

Bergman was also a fan of Scorsese’s brilliant films, especially Taxi Driver which he labelled as a great artistic achievement: “I think Mr Scorsese’s film Taxi Driver is a film about violence on the highest artistic level.”

Check out a beginner’s guide to the enigmatic works of Ingmar Bergman below.