The Brand New Testament: Poelvoorde’s confessions

You may have discovered The Brand New Testament by Jaco Van Dormael at the New Zealand International Film Festival last month. Before coming to New Zealand’s movie theatres, it was released this week in Belgium. One of my Belgian colleagues, Elli Mastorou was lucky enough to meet God, alias Benoît Poelvoorde, one of the most famous Belgian actors of his generation. Here is her quirky and irreverent interview with him that reflects Poelvoorde’s persona and Jaco Van Dormael’s universe. I loved it so much I wanted to translate it for you. I hope you enjoy it! :

How is it possible to play God in a movie called ‘The Brand New Testament’ when one is a believer? Benoit Poelvoorde goes to confession here: Jesus, the apostles, Faith and armrests!

The Brand New Testament - God, his wife and his daughter

Interview with Benoît Poelvoorde from Elli Mastorou

You can’t refuse a last minute one-to-one with God! Hearing about François Damiens cancelling all his interviews, – his father had been admitted to the hospital emergency department – Poelvoorde spontaneously decided to replace him. On movies sets as on TV studios, it’s Benoit Poelvoorde’s way of being: he is a whirlwind of noise and unpredictability. With him, you never know where an interview will be going. But, what’s sure is that it ends with a smile.

Elli Mastorou: Benoit Poelvoorde, a few people know but you’re actually a believer:

Benoît Poelvoorde: Yes, it’s true. I even said some prayers for Franz’ father (François Damiens’ father) before coming here.

E.M.: Do you think The Brand New Testament could offend believer’s sensibility?

B.P.: On the contrary, I invite them to go and watch it. The film’s storyline almost follows the lines of catechism; you remember when we were small children? Jaco decides to say: If there are so many injustices on Earth, it’s because God is mean. In other words, it means, that he believes in God (smile)! Jaco claims tirelessly that he is an atheist because he’s an intellectual but I think that he believes in God much more than I do. He is an atheist who is waiting to find the Faith.

E.M: How have you built your relationship to religion?

B.P.: Oh, it comes first from my education background, and then, it’s a personal search. To me, we’re not programmed to love one another. That’s the syndrome of the armrest: naturally you’d like to keep it for you. Love your neighbour as yourself, these are all principles that defy common sense! Personally, if somebody slaps me in the face, I won’t turn the other cheek! Actually, we all know that nobody will turn the other cheek, it’s just how we are made.

E.M: Have you been baptised?

B.P: Yes. Baptised, communion, confirmation, I was married at Church: I’ve done it all!

E.M: And you, do you go to church?

B.P: No. I don’t practise anymore. I think, I arrive at another understanding of Faith which is more to touch the Grace. I don’t have it but I strive for it. As I always say: people say that Bach is the proof of God’s existence, but I would rather say God is the proof of Human’s existence and of Bach’s. It means that human beings have built marvellous works because they want so much that God exists that they challenge themselves a lot! It means that men have in themselves something profoundly good and strong that is bigger than they are. It can be music, painting, literature. I can call God Allah, Yahvé, I don’t give a damn! What I personally call Faith, are people capable of making mountains move, creating sonates like Bach, painting the Sistine Chapel, building moschees…

E.M: Do you think that man is fundamentally good?

B.P: No. I think we’re divided in two kinds like in Hergé’s drawings (Creator of Tintin). When Captain Haddock wants to drink alcohol, he’s got two small horns, when he wants to save Tintin, he’s got an aureole. I think we’ve got both in ourselves: Good and Evil. A guy that stabs two people in the street one week will maybe save an old woman crossing the street the next. If God exists, Evil exits.

E.M: In the movie, your daughter arrives on Earth and recruits 12 new apostles. If this was you who would you chose?

B.P: Oh! I’ve always mistrusted the apostles. To me, they are a bit like those ‘party friends’ you have when you are young: through the years, their version of events changes. At first, you had a version of the party where you had drunk and danced a little. Four years later, you would have undressed and hit the DJ… That’s why I tend to distrust the Gospels…

original interview here:

To learn more:

 Sally Welly

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