February 4, 2010
From an interview at Cinema-Scope with Robert Koehler, from just after the 2006 release of Paul Verhoeven’s film The Black Book:
… You had this strange encounter with Pentecostal Christianity. How did that happen, and how did your reaction to that experience prompt your concern for reality and even hyper-reality?
My then-future wife Martine got pregnant in 1966, and we didn’t want a child at the time. I was just starting my film career, and the prospect of an unplanned child might force me to abandon film at least temporarily. To a large degree, it was disturbing: during that period, I had a sense that I was losing my mind. I wouldn’t say a psychosis, but it felt close to that. My response was to become a member of a Pentecostal church, for a month. It was an existential need. This wasn’t common in Holland in the ‘60s.
What made you leave?
When an artist friend heard my problem, he told me that it wasn’t much of a problem. His father is a doctor of anesthetics at the Red Cross hospital in The Hague, and he could help us. So reality and pragmatism brought me out of it. This encounter with spiritual, mystical Christianity had an enormous impact on me. As a result, to get out of this dangerously sectarian thinking in which the subconscious elements of my brain were seeping into my conscious, I felt that I had to close the doors of perception, as Huxley calls it. The subconscious elements can be very powerful, and if one isn’t careful, they can take over the conscious parts of your brain. This is what happened to Nietzsche when he lost his mind in Turin. I wanted to protect myself by concentrating for years of my creative life on reality. That explains something of my enormous interest in the reality of everything, and my sense of the reality of violence, an aspect of my work that some people continue to have enormous problems with … In 1985, I started to be able to think about these things again, and open them a little bit, so some of that stuff could drip in. Now, I’m writing a book about Jesus.
What kind of book?
What I think happened. The last years, based on research. I’m a member of the Jesus Seminar, based in Santa Rosa. Their seminars are twice a year, and I’ve attended a lot of them and have presented several papers. I’ve become really pretty good in theology. Although I would say that my focus is more on history than theology per se.
So your Jesus would be closer to Pasolini’s reading?
Perhaps a more Marxist approach. I also love Monty Python’s reading, in Life of Brian, which is just brilliant.