Robert Eggers in an interview with Slashfilm.com:
This sounds super uber-precious, but I think it’s hard to do this kind of creative work in a modern secular society because it becomes all about your ego and yourself. And I am envious — this is the horrible part — I’m envious of medieval craftsmen who are doing the work for God. And that becomes a way to … you get to be creative to celebrate something else. And also, you’re censoring yourself because it’s not about like me, me, me, me, me, me. So you say, “Oh, I got to rein that back because that’s not what this altar piece needs to be.” Any worldview where everything around them is full of meaning is exciting to me, because we live in such a tiresome, lame, commercial culture now.
American society is highly secular, and yet Eggers, who I am guessing would count himself a humanist and not a man of religion, feels that something is terribly lacking about it. You can practically hear the ache in his voice, longing for more mystery, more meaning and enchantment in the world. Alas, in a secular society, there is no such thing. Everything can be explained scientifically, or will be; and the chief explanation science which science has drawn is we are here by accident. But hey (so the thinking goes), that’s not such a bad thing. You get to create your own meaning.
Is that really so easy to do, though? Can a created, subjective meaning fill a soul that pines for something more? Can it withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and horrific suffering? Is it strong enough to reign in the focus on the self which Eggers finds so suffocating?
“Yes to all!” the humanist doggedly insists. And yet, and yet…