Mr. Allen, do you see your president, George W. Bush, as a comic or a tragic figure?
Allen: Bush himself is rather comic. When you listen to him speak, you sometimes just have to laugh out loud. But if he were to be reelected, that would be a tragedy.
SPIEGEL: Have the lives of Americans become so terrible under Bush?
Allen: President Bush' personality is the perfect example of how, in a sea of tragedy, tiny islands of comedy can sometimes appear, alloying us to refresh ourselves with humor. It's like drinking a glass of cold water on a really hot day. The reality that we read about every morning in the paper is simply bad and gruesome. There is no silver lining. Suffering doesn't redeem anyone, and there's nothing we can learn from it.
SPIEGEL: Has the mood in New York changed so much since the attacks on the Twin Towers that you now see everything as black on black?
Allen: No. Except for a certain paranoia, which keeps conversations going at parties, life goes on just the way it used to. People go to the theater, to baseball games, and they fill up the restaurants. Most of the new, harsh security measures are irrelevant in daily life.
SPIEGEL: As a chronicler of Manhattan, why haven't you incorporated September 11th into your films yet?
Allen: I just don't find political topics profound enough to deal with as an artist. After all, the entire history of mankind consists of murders. It's just the cosmetics, the decoration that changes. In 2001, a few fanatics killed Americans, and now Americans are killing a few Iraqis. When I was a child, the Nazis killed the Jews. Now the Jews and the Palestinians are killing each other. Over the thousands of years, politics is too fleeting an affair, too unimportant, because everything repeats itself. But I'm a citizen, so of course I'll vote.
SPIEGEL: Do you feel called upon to get involved in the presidential election campaign?
Allen: I've campaigned for a wide variety of candidates over the years, and I'll be happy to do the same for John Kerry.
SPIEGEL: Do voters allow themselves to be influenced by prominent artists?
Allen: When people in show business take a position in American political campaigns, it doesn't seem to do much good. I guess the Europeans have more respect for artists. In the US, when authors like Norman Mailer or Philip Roth speak out, the only people who acknowledge what they say are those who already agree with them. That doesn't generate any new votes.
SPIEGEL: What about arguments like the lies about the war or economic policies that increase the national debt? Don't they count?
Allen: People who are pro-Bush aren't interested in good arguments. "I know, and it doesn't matter," his supporters say, "but I just like the guy." And that's that. I just happen to like Kerry.
Whenever I get mixed up in political campaign, people say: "Well, Woody Allen is just a typical New York intellectual." And Republican voters just laugh about crazy Hollywood types.
SPIEGEL: So do you think it's ineffective when someone like Michael Moore produces a documentary film with a strong political message?
Allen: With "Fahrenheit 9/11," Moore made a highly successful and good documentary. But the trouble was, the only people who loved the film were the ones who agreed with him. I'm one of them. But Moore was also unsuccessful in influencing the other side. They did a survey to test that hypothesis. A hopeless case.
INTERVIEW: HELENE ZUBER
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan