Friday, July 04, 2014

Sternberg's Wisdom

I believe that every artistic creation is a search. When a painter paints, what do you think he does? His brush searches all the time. He looks for something that is greater than what he himself demands. And when what comes back is only what the artist himself thinks, then it is not good. When something comes back which has a mystic, mysterious unity which is beyond the conception of the artist, that is then good. When the artist cannot recognise his own work. When he does his own work so he can recognise it, then it is not good.

When I say "I know exactly what I am going to do", I mean I know exactly what ideas I'm going to take or what ideas I'm going to use as the foundation of my work but I've no idea of how to direct. As a matter of fact, I've often been asked by my producers- God save their souls!- to tell them what I should do. But how can I tell them? I don't know what I'm going to do. And they say, "You can't do this!" And I say "I can't do anything else". Because I never know if what I want is correct until I see it... And very often in making the film, unless something comes back to me which is better than what I wanted, I don't think it's good. So I very often have to accept the scene as mediocre because you can't work all day long on a single word from eight o'clock in the morning until eight at night... Occasionally something comes back which is better than what I wanted but otherwise it's a reflection of my mind and that's not very good....

I don't have the same reaction to pictures that you have. I view a picture like a surgeon views an operation. If an operation is good and the patient dies, that's too bad. But the operation is what appeals to me....

As a matter of fact, it's difficult for me to talk about my own work. The Russians say: "The chicken does not talk about its own soup".

- Josef von Sternberg (1966)    


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