Restoring the past, forging the present: Scapegoating and redemption in calvaire and these are the names

Peter G.A. Versteeg*, Edwin Koster

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article is a comparison of two works of fiction, a film and a novel, that both address the question of how people deal with intense memories of tragic events from their past. Both works are characterized by crucial references to religious phenomena. In the Belgian cult horror film Calvaire and the bestselling Dutch novel These Are The Names, stories are told about the desire to restore what was lost. In order to deal with past realities, the characters in these works of fiction impose the past, in an imaginative form, upon the present, which inevitably seems to create violence and conflict. The introduction of violence, and the way this violence destroys identities as a means to restore a lost world, calls the possibility and credibility of restoration into question. In order to explore the phenomenon of restoration, we introduce a concept of substitution (inspired by René Girard) to investigate the power of violence in these two narratives. In Calvaire, violence leads to the perversion of identity, ultimately leading to the latter’s destruction, yet at the same time it can be understood to result in love and absolution. In These Are The Names, sacrificing acts first seem to bring a new beginning but in the end redemption is substituted by accusations of severe crimes. However, in this novel the past is also present in such a way that lost identities could be restored. How both stories look at the relation between past and present and in which way they present the possibility of restoring painful events, will be our main questions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number327
Number of pages10
JournalReligions - An Open Acces Theology Journal
Issue number5
Early online date7 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by Templeton World Charity Foundation, grant number 0163. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Templeton World Charity Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Fiction
  • Film
  • Identity
  • Novel
  • Redemption
  • René Girard
  • Scapegoat mechanism
  • Violence


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