ADRIAN MARTIN: Both Suspended Vocation and The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting are based on the works of the writer-artist Pierre Klossowski.
RAÚL RUIZ: Klossowski is not very French, if you know what I mean. Of course, he’s French because of his family ancestry; it’s an old Polish family which came to France in the century of the Napoleonic wars.
Klossowski is deeply connected with French culture, but he never felt comfortable in this culture. He was always very interested in Spanish and Italian culture mainly, and of course classical culture. But these aspects were more or less ignored in France.
I discovered Klossowski really by chance, reading his novel Suspended Vocation while waiting for a friend in a library. Then I bought the book and thought it was very strange. It has the form of a future book that never comes.
This book talks about all the quarrels inside the church, of different factions in the Catholic church. This was not very different from the discussions and quarrels inside the Left movement in Latin America. Which is not so strange when you think that this movement was composed of ex-Catholics. They transposed old Catholic quarrels into the Left; this is one of the ways you can read the political movements in Latin America.
I was, of course, fascinated by this and, when I started working on the novel, Klossowski was so surprised that I wanted to do it. We talked about how we could do it, and we became friends. I wanted to make something with the whole body of his work, so I wanted to make a documentary of sorts. But he was quite shy and timid about it, and did not want to work on that.
I was interested in the novel because part of the work is a combination of perversity and theology, mostly inside the form of perversion as a philosophy. I am much too Catholic to accept that. I prefer to work with the other kind of perversion, with the Catholic perversions, with the theological nightmares and institutional nightmares. I was most interested in how institutions work, how an institution is ideology plus bad faith.
AM: What does Klossowski think of the films you have made based on his work?
RR: He likes Suspended Vocation a lot. He didn’t like The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting very much.
AM: You often refer to Klossowski’s idea that the unconscious is something that happens between people.
RR: One of the reasons I became interested in Klossowski is because he created one of the most powerful critiques of identity, of personal identity.
The idea you mention seems to me to be very evident, and at the same time very strange. It’s that you are never you; you are always somebody else with another person. You are not the same person with your wife; your unconscious changes when you are with a friend, or when you are buying your newspaper. You are changing identity all the time.
It was crazy, but it was a central element for me to think about working with characters, with the non-existent characters of the cinema. Later, Klossowski told me he never said that; that maybe it was a misunderstanding. But I’m sure he told me that.