Wow, I am so glad I never had to interview Ingmar Bergman.
Torsten Manns: This time we’ve agreed to discuss some general motifs, not one particular film, but motifs which recur in many of them. Among other things, we’ve agreed on the child motif, sex, and censorship. How about taking the child-motif first? The fact is, we’ve one little film left; and that’s Daniel––a little scrap of a film from Stimulantia, 1966.
So I’ve arranged the child-motif in four types. First, as a catalyst for subconscious phobias, the trauma and the archetypes––here The Hour of the Wolf is a good example: the little boy there goes straight back to the old man in the cupboard who appeared in that play, ‘the little folk.’
The second is the child as an object of violence: The Devil’s Wanton, where a baby is murdered, The Virgin Spring where the raped girl is herself almost a child, The Shame––this little dead girl found by Liv and also the dream of children, where it’s smashed to pieces––and even the boy in Frenzy who arrives too late at the beginning and is told off by Gunnar Bjornstrand (of all people)––he too is a little exposed fellow.
The third––in dreams of continuation, of togetherness, as the rescuer of relationships––a patent solution, one might say, not peculiar to yourself, but implicit in the whole of this The Joy-Eva-Journey Into Autumn complex, where the woman begs to have a child with Ulf Palme, and he says: ‘I don’t want to have some poor little chap somewhere I can’t reach.’ In The Silence it’s less clear; but there the boy is definitely a means of communication between the two women. In So Close to Life, the motif is completely patent––it’s virtually a clinical film about children; about the three women’s attributes to childbirth.
Finally the fourth, the dwarf motif––we’ve pretty well exhausted that. In The Rite, Hans speaks of his children, but no child is actually seen. I should very much like to know what your attitude to children is, from every point of view.
Ingmar Bergman: My first reaction to all you’re saying is a dreadful feeling of oppression. Not specially aimed at myself, but a feeling of powerlessness. I can’t explain it. A feeling that it’s all so dull, that it will get duller, and what I’ve made, suddenly, is all dull and uninteresting too. I can’t explain it. I don’t know why it is, but as I sit here listening to you I feel furious––don’t misunderstand this, Torsten. I’ve nothing against you personally. That’s just how it is.
When someone pulls out a thread like this and says: ‘Yes, well, surely it’s this way? Aren’t things like this? It’s like this and it’s like that,’ I feel completely paralyzed. I can’t utter a word. Well, it’s possible, things may be that way, I don’t know. I’m not being cagey. It’s simply with me things don’t work that way.
I can’t discuss any leitmotif running through my films. Obviously I could hold a lecture on the humiliation motif––I even fancy we’ve gone through it rather thoroughly. But all this about children… I’ve eight children myself, so I’ve had a certain amount of experience of children and react according to certain patterns, which have changed over the years. But I don’t think it’s of any consequence, nor do I feel it has any place in this document.
(From Bergman on Bergman: Interviews with Ingmar Bergman by Stig Bjorkman, Torsten Manns and Jonas Sima)