a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


'The Manuscript Found in Saragossa'


Belief is stronger than knowledge
Jean-Claude Carrière Film-maker
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

At the time of the French Revolution - we'll come back to it obviously - the most brilliant minds of the time, Robespierre and others, could not do without some supernatural belief. They felt it was necessary but most of their friends were calling for complete atheism... which seems obvious. They felt that a society – we can call it a democratic and republican society – still required some almighty powers as if to hang onto something, something without which our life would not be possible, would not be bearable. That is why Robespierre put together the Festival of the Supreme Being, not God, but Supreme Being, one month before being beheaded. Quite a ridiculous festival, taking place in Paris, and David the artist, had to design the uniforms for the notables of the time. That is where the issue is, to know… I have enjoyed studying religions, even though I am a complete unbeliever. A religion does not say anything about God, as He does not exist, but it says a lot about us. It says a lot about what we miss, what we yearn for, our frustrations, regrets, disappointments, deceptions, a vast amount on the shortness of our life and how very conscious we are of it, our inability to understand nothingness, which is something that our conscience stumbles over, and we are fully aware of this. If I had some ultimate power in any society, I don't think I would legally suppress religions, I would try to live with them, which is what most democratic countries do. The issue is that some religions, most of them, especially Islam today, try to impose some political vision on what is only a belief. In other words, belief is stronger than knowledge, that is what we need to know… for most of us, what we believe is stronger than what we know. And you need to accept it when you are in politics, which is not always easy. Every country, Poland like France, has had issues with... right now, in France, the burka issues, creating laws regarding clothing for Muslim women, this hasn't stopped and it never will stop, because this time it is based on nothing, it's absurd, it's based on nothing, it is so strong that it brings people to the point where they want to bend reality to something which by definition is unreal, that is to say, belief.

A l’époque de la révolution française, dont nous parlerons forcément à un moment donné, les esprits les plus brillants de ce temps-là, Robespierre et les autres, n’ont pas pu se passer d’une croyance surnaturelle. Ils ont parfaitement senti, alors que toute une partie de leurs amis proclamaient un athéisme intégral… qui paraît évident. Eux sentaient que la vie d’une société, qu’on peut appeler une société démocratique et républicaine, nécessitait une puissance supérieure comme pour se raccrocher à quelque chose sans quoi notre vie ne serait pas possible, ne serait pas supportable. C’est pour cela que Robespierre organise la fête de «l’être suprême», il n’appelle plus Dieu, il l’appelle «l’être suprême» un mois avant d’être décapité. Une fête apparemment assez ridicule qui s’est déroulée à Paris, pour laquelle le peintre David a dû dessiner des uniformes pour les notables de ce temps-là. C’est tout le problème de savoir que… une religion, moi j’ai beaucoup aimé étudier les religions, moi qui suis complètement non croyant. Une religion ne nous dit rien sur Dieu, bien sûr qu’il n’existe pas, mais nous dit beaucoup sur nous. Nous dit beaucoup sur ce qui nous manque, sur ce que nous voudrions, sur nos aspirations, nos frustrations, nos regrets, nos déceptions, énormément de choses sur la brièveté de notre vie, sur la conscience que nous en avons, sur l’impossibilité que nous avons à concevoir le néant, qui est un… des point sur lequel notre conscience achoppe pour ainsi dire, de tout cela nous sommes très conscient. Si j’avais le pouvoir suprême dans une société, je ne crois pas que je supprimerais par une loi les religions… J’essaierais de vivre avec, ce que font la plupart des gouvernements démocratiques. Le problème est que les religions, toutes, presque toutes, et surtout l’Islam d’aujourd’hui, tentent à imposer une vision politique de ce qui n’est qu’une croyance. Autrement dit: la croyance est plus forte que la connaissance, c’est ce qu’il faut savoir, en… dans la majorité d’entre nous, ce que nous croyons est plus forte que ce que nous savons. Et il faut faire avec quand on est un homme politique, ce n’est pas toujours facile. Tout les pays, la Pologne comme la France, ont eu des problèmes avec… en ce moment en France la burka, les lois sur les vêtements féminins musulmans, ça n’arrête pas et ça n’arrêtera jamais… car cette foi absurde qui ne repose absolutement sur rien est tellement forte qu’elle amène à vouloir plier le réel à ce qui est par définition irréel, c’est à dire la croyance.

French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière (1931-2021) 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 wrote 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: French Revolution, Festival of the Supreme Being, Maximilien Robespierre

Duration: 2 minutes, 57 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2010

Date story went live: 27 July 2010