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In an interview with Commonweal, Woody Allen shows the skull beneath the skin. Excerpt:
RL: When Ingmar Bergman died, you said even if you made a film as great as one of his, what would it matter? It doesn’t gain you salvation. So you had to ask yourself why do you continue to make films. Could you just say something about what you meant by “salvation”?WA: Well, you know, you want some kind of relief from the agony and terror of human existence. Human existence is a brutal experience to me…it’s a brutal, meaningless experience–an agonizing, meaningless experience with some oases, delight, some charm and peace, but these are just small oases. Overall, it is a brutal, brutal, terrible experience, and so it’s what can you do to alleviate the agony of the human condition, the human predicament? That is what interests me the most. I continue to make the films because the problem obsesses me all the time and it’s consistently on my mind and I’m consistently trying to alleviate the problem, and I think by making films as frequently as I do I get a chance to vent the problems. There is some relief. I have said this before in a facetious way, but it is not so facetious: I am a whiner. I do get a certain amount of solace from whining. RL: Are you saying the humor in your films is a relief for you? Or are you sort of saying to the audience, “Here is an oasis, a couple of laughs”?WA: I think what I’m saying is that I’m really impotent against the overwhelming bleakness of the universe and that the only thing I can do is my little gift and do it the best I can, and that is about the best I can do, which is cold comfort.
Allen goes on to say that human creative endeavor is all about distracting us from the fundamental emptiness and meaninglessness of existence. I think there’s something admirable about the willingness of Allen to deal with the fullest implications of nihilism, which is to say, a world without God. Father Robert Lauder, who interviewed Allen here, says that even though he does not share Allen’s atheism, it is admirable that Allen, in his art, sees clearly that how one answers the question of whether or not God exists influences everything in one’s outlook on life.For myself, I cannot escape the same conclusion as Woody Allen: either God exists, or Woody Allen is right (and so is the monstrous Judah character in Allen’s great Dostoevskian film “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” who concludes in the final scene — excerpted below — that in a world without God, moral conduct becomes a matter of whatever you can get away with and rationalize. That is not an argument for God’s existence, of course, but I would say that people who think the non-existence of God is not such a big deal haven’t really thought through the question like Allen has. Unfortunately, Allen keeps making the same movie over and over again, from a philosophical point of view, because I think he’s realized that the only way he’ll ever find what he’s looking for is if he accepts God, and he either cannot or will not allow for that possibility.