His films are legendary, but a new documentary about Ingmar Bergman shows that he was, like many creative geniuses, not such a great human being

They say you should never meet your heroes, and it is annoying that the more you find out about great people, the more you realise that no matter how brilliant their achievements, they are still, like the rest of us, just ordinary people who are just as capable of messing up their lives as anyone else.

A great year?
And so it is with Ingmar Bergman. A new documentary, Bergman: A Year in a Life directed by Jane Magnusson, centres on just one year in Bergman’s life, a year when he released his seminal films The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries, whilst also creating great works for TV and theatre. He was immensely productive with his work, but immensely destructive when it came to his personal life. Despite already having six children by three different women, Bergman was beginning yet another relationship, another relationship that was also destined to fail. The film also shows how he was capable of being a terrible bully to those he worked with.  

Secret lives
As a nosey person, I love finding out about the real people behind great works of art, but I wonder if it is actually better NOT to know about those you admire. From the painter Picasso to the film director Woody Allen, knowing how badly these great men have treated women, for example, does tarnish them in my mind. As much as I have enjoyed so many of Woody Allen’s films, I find it hard to be truly enthusiastic about his work, when I am so doubtful about the man himself.  

Judge not,,,
‘Judge the art, not the artist’ does make life much simpler, as one could enjoy films directed by Allen and Bergman (not to mention those produced by Harvey Weinstein!) without any shadow obscuring the brilliance of the work. This is fine in theory, and great creations should be celebrated in their own right, but this does not mean that the people who created them should be lionised, and their sins forgiven any more easily than anyone else’s.