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Buñuel and the Dalaï Lama

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Buñuel and religion
Jean-Claude Carrière Film-maker
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Anyone who's ever tried to hijack Buñuel on religious grounds gets it wrong, that is completely hopeless. Buñuel was strongly atheist and kept mocking not only religion but even atheists. And he could laugh about it as he was stating, 'I'm fanatically against fanatics'. You need to be wary of people like Max Aub who was, as Spaniards say, mala leche, meaning always looking for the dark side, always saying that Buñuel was actually like some religious people who tried to hijack Buñuel, stating that he believed in God, even if he was hiding it well, which is completely untrue. And Buñuel was not a blasphemer, not at all, as he sometimes was mocking them, saying that Spanish people are – were but maybe still are – champions of blasphemous things, no one can beat Spaniards in that. For instance they say 'me cago en Dios', 'I shit on God', nothing could be worse, but in order to shit on God, you need to believe in Him, otherwise you shit on nothing, it is pointless. And Buñuel, I never heard him say such things. There was that distance and that amazing intelligence, very lucid until the end. He had considered making some practical joke on his deathbed, he liked talking about it. 'On my deathbed, I'd call my wife, my closest friends, and tell them: call a priest, call a priest', and then he would die, confessing to things simply to scandalise them.  That was his dream, but he could not achieve it, as he died in hospital, as we all do.

[Q] It is like the priest in The Milky Way who said, 'Everyone's a Catholic, even the Muslims.

Muslims are Catholics, even the Chinese are, that is obvious. No, it is true that Christianity has been declaring its vocation to be universal for a long time, as in the 16th century when Spain conquered the Americas destroying everything in their way, killing people, stating, 'Everyone is destined to become a Christian', that is a definite certainty, we can see the results of this today, but most religions have said the same thing, Islam included. Islam presents itself today as a solution. A solution to what? We don't know.

Tous ceux qui ont essayé de récupérer Buñuel d’un point vue religieux se sont complètement plantés, il n’y a aucun espoir de ce côté-là. Buñuel était très solidement athée et se moquait perpétuellement non seulement, de la religion et même de son athéisme. Il lui arrivait d’en rire quand il disait : «Je suis fanatiquement anti fanatique» etc. Il faut se méfier des gens comme Max Aub qui était, comme on dit à l’espagnole mala leche, c’est-à-dire qui cherchait toujours les mauvais côtés des choses, toujours à dire que Buñuel était en fait… comme certains religieux ont essayé de le récupérer, de dire qu’en fait il croyait en Dieu, même s’il le cachait ce qui est absolument faux. Et Buñuel n’était pas un blasphémateur, je ne crois pas du tout, car il lui arrivait de se moquer des blasphémateurs, et même de dire que les espagnols, sont… étaient, peut-être sont toujours, les champions du monde de blasphème… que  il n’y pas plus blasphémateur que la parole espagnole et que de dire par exemple: «Me cago en Dios», «Je chie sur Dieu» littéralement, ça on ne peut pas imaginer quelque chose de plus blasphématoire, mais c’est vrai que pour chier sur Dieu il faut croire en Dieu, il faut croire au moins qu’il est là, sinon, si on chie sur rien ça n’a aucun intérêt, mais Buñuel lui même, je ne l’ai jamais entendu dire: «Me cago en Dios». Il avait cette distance et cette étonnante intelligence qui était la sienne, très lucide… qu’il a gardé jusqu’au bout. Il avait même envisagé de faire une blague à ses amis, étant sur son lit de mort… c’est quelque chose qu’il aimait raconter: «J’aimerais un jour au moment où je sens que je vais mourir appeler ma femme, mes meilleurs amis, et leurs dire: appelez un prêtre, appelez un prêtre… et mourir en me confessant pour scandaliser mes amis»….. C’était quelque chose qu’il rêvait de faire mais qu’il n’a pas pu faire, il est mort à l’hôpital comme nous mourons tous.

[Q] C’est comme le prêtre dans La voie lactée qui dit «tout le monde est catholique, même les musulmans».

Les musulmans sont catholiques, même les chinois, mais c’est évident… Non, c’est vrai que la vocation de l’universalité du christianisme a été longtemps affichée, au XVI siècle comme les Espagnols vont conquérir l’Amérique, ils détruisent tout sur leur passage, ils massacrent  des populations en disant: «Le monde entier est destiné à devenir chrétien», ça c’est une certitude absolue, on voit ce qu’il en est aujourd’hui évidemment, mais cela dit, la plupart des religions, l’Islam aussi, ont dit la même chose. L’Islam dit aujourd’hui que la solution c’est Islam. La solution à quoi? On ne sait pas.

French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière began his association with films aged 24 when he was selected by Jacques Tati to write for him. This early experience led to further contact with other film-makers, including Luis Buñuel with whom Carrière collaborated for many years. He has written screenplays for films including 'Belle de Jour', 'The Discreet Charms of the Bourgeoisie', 'Tin Drum' and 'Danton'.

Listeners: Andrzej Wolski

Film director and documentary maker, Andrzej Wolski has made around 40 films since 1982 for French television, the BBC, TVP and other TV networks.  He specializes in portraits and in historical films.  Films that he has directed or written the screenplay for include Kultura, which he co-directed with Agnieszka Holland, and KOR which presents the history of the Worker’s Defence Committee as told by its members.  Andrzej Wolski has received many awards for his work, including the UNESCO Grand Prix at the Festival du Film d’Art.

Tags: The Milky Way, Max Aub, Luis Buñuel

Duration: 2 minutes, 43 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2010

Date story went live: 27 July 2010