He lived on a small island called Faro, north of Gotland, where he would plan his films, write the scripts, make the screenboards, and everything. He limited his activities: Besides working and thinking, he might go for a stroll. In the late afternoon or evening, he would have visitors over to go and look at a movie in his cinema. And that was his routine, every day.
That’s pretty disciplined to me — living primarily in service to one’s art. But we also hear the other myth: that you must live yourself out.
You know the cliché: You’re out on the town, you’re doing drugs, you’re drinking, you’re running on the walls, you’re pissing on the fireplace. It’s a cliché. Often you run into artists who live that life — and at one point, you find out that they’re not actually producing that much art. They’re living the life of the artist without the work.
If you live the kind of life that Bergman does — spending long hours in solitude, working with your art — sometimes people use medicine to smooth things over. They drink or take pills or whatever they do in order to deal with the painful sides of this. But so do people who don’t produce art. It’s not like only artists drink to cope. Doing so doesn’t make you more interesting or creative — and it may even destroy you.
I’ve often met artists who say it’s good to smoke marijuana or do this or that it will do things for things for your creativity. But basically, that’s just an excuse to take it. If you’ve got humanity pouring out of your veins, you don’t need anything to trigger it.
We can separate artistic pain, the experience of feeling deeply, from leading a painful life. One is not a requirement for the other. What’s interesting about Bergman — he shows you can use your demons to pull your way through life. You can use them for good things instead of trying to let them destroy you.