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A « Disappearing Act » Behind the Text

Gilles Castelnau

Translation Louise Thunin

Some actors may have lessons to teach ministers and theology students…

The actress, Fanny Ardant, is interviewed in the 2015 summer issue of the French monthly, Philosophie, which also interests the interpretors of the Bible that we are. She explains that she tries to commune with the character whose role she is playing, to enter into his thought processes, and, far from expressing her own opinions, she tries to disappear and make the words of the script hers, in order to give them life.

And so it goes, it would seem, with the work of a Bible specialist. Indeed, the latter reflects on the historical, social, political and religous context of the Biblical author, in order to understand his motivations and the options revealed by the text. The Biblical scholar disappears, as Fanny Ardant says, so as to let the Word spring forth as announced by the original author.


« When does an actor misplay his role ? A failed interpretation is an interpetation that doubles the text in an attempt to make it say more than it has already said. It would be presumptuous to think that we are more intelligent than the text. Similarly, to say, for example, of an adaptation that it is « current » has always seemed restrictive to me. Poets, writers and thinkers whose work has passed on to posterity have done so thanks to their valid discourse on humanity, not to the modernism that we ascribe to them. (…)

         So, on the contrary, here is how one succeeds at an interpretation : think that nothing else exists except what is alive there, believing thoroughly in the story creating itself. I try to inhabit the present as fully as possible, without too much critical distance or too wide a gap between myself and the character I am playing, having faith in the story I am expressing. »


It appears to me that Fanny Ardant has a place in our theological seminaries as a witness to what a real respect of text implies. She could remind us to truly fade out behind a Biblical passage which we seek to bring to life, without trying to be cleverer than the author nor claiming to make it answer questions it never brought up, in an attempt, finally, to make it say what it does not say.




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À propos Gilles

a été pasteur à Amsterdam et en Région parisienne. Il s’est toujours intéressé à la présence de l’Évangile aux marges de l’Église. Il anime depuis 17 ans le site Internet Protestants dans la ville.

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