Ingmar Bergman’s religious views, his particular spiritual ideology have always held interest because unlike a Dawkins or a Hitchens, there is always nuance and ambiguity to Bergman’s views, always a few hidden back door and small windows with cracks in them to let some light through. Whether it was a gray of mourning or a melancholic gray is always up for grabs in a Bergman film; what does seem clear is the need for tragic and flawed characters that seem difficult to relate to and are able, decorative and aesthetic styled objects, “the other” , alienated, stark and bleak that he can use to mourn for him. The living dead as primitive archetype searching for a universal validity.
Its not really conclusive as to whether Bergman is an atheist in the hard sense; more non-religion than atheism, and a tormented relation between religion and religiosity. Queries about an absent god, disinterested; more a gnosticism than agnoticism that searches for a holiness without god. A world without god in which the individual carries around their own baggage of holiness and that formula does not require themes of salvation and redemption. Or even faith, and surely not trust. At the same time, the film within a film of Bergman is always the spectacle of the shadowy wrestling match with god with the director as Swedish Jacob….
( see link at end) :INGMAR BERGMAN: If you have a faith, if you’ve some deep conviction, whether you’re a Nazi or a Communist or what the hell else you are–then you can sacrifice yourself and others to your faith. But from the moment you’ve no faith–from that moment you live in a deep inner confusion–from then on you’re exposed to what Strindberg calls ‘the powers’….
INGMAR BERGMAN: It’s taken from the cult of Dionysius–to drive away the face of the god. You can find it in the Catholic mass. Curious, how things work. In the Catholic mass there’s something called the elevation. At a particular moment the priest raises the chalice. That’s something he doesn’t do in the Lutheran Communion Service. In fact it’s forbidden. The Catholic ritual of the elevation is a relic of the cult of Dionysius, whose priest held up the bowl of blood above his head to mirror the face of the god behind his back and so drive the god away. Read More:http://www.adherents.com/people/pb/Ingmar_Bergman.html
…INGMAR BERGMAN: Or one might say the problem dissolves. Anyway the crux of the matter is–the problem doesn’t exist any more. Nothing, absolutely nothing at all has emerged out of all these ideas of faith and scepticism, all these convulsions, these puffings and blowings. For many of my fellow human beings on the other hand, I’m aware that these problems still exist–and exist as a terrible reality. I hope this generation will be the last to live under the scourge of religious anxiety….
…JS: But Edstrom isn’t th eonly writer to criticize you in this respect. Others too–not at least abroad–have taken exception to your way of turning psychiatric into religious problems. Behind all this, of course, on perceives a sort of dogmatism.
INGMAR BERGMAN: People think there’s a solution. If everything is distributed in the proper quarters, put into the right pigeonholes, everything will be fine. But I’m not so sure.
JS: It’s a common atheistic notion that religiosity is just a symptom of psychosis.
INGMAR BERGMAN: Quite right! Precisely. And in religious circles, one might say, it’s the other way around. I find this sort of criticism hard to understand. I don’t even feel itlevance. I don’t think it has anything to do with the motifs in themselves….
…INGMAR BERGMAN: No one is safe from religious ideas and confessional phenomena. Neither you nor I. We can fall victim to them when we least expect it. It’s like Mao ‘flu, or being struck by lightning. You’re utterly helpless. Exposed.
As I see it today, any relapse is utterly out of the question. But I can’t say it’s out of the question tomorrow….( ibid)
I have struggled all my life with a tormented and joyless relationship with God. Faith and lack of faith, punishment, grace and rejection, all were real to me, all were imperative. My prayers stank of anguish, entreaty, trust, loathing and despair. God spoke, God said nothing. Do not turn from Thy face ( Bergman)