Think of Agatha Christie’s dapper, fastidious, Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, and the image that comes most easily to mind is that of the British actor, David Suchet.
Suchet made the part very much his own, starring in 13 series – a total of 70 episodes – of the Independent Television series, ‘Agatha Christie’s Poirot’ from 1989 to 2013.
Now in a new autobiographical book, ‘Behind the Lens’, Suchet – a keen photographer – has stepped the other side of the camera to give us a pictorial view of the events and characters that have shaped his life. Interestingly, he talks about his Christian faith, which he approaches with the same exactitude of study as he gives to the characters he plays on stage and screen.
Coming from a mixed Jewish/Christian background, Suchet grew up agnostic (though never quite, he says, atheist) until one day, when he was about 40 years old, he was in a hotel in America lying in a bath, thinking about the afterlife and the resurrection. He was puzzled – being an agnostic – that his thoughts should turn that way, but he decided to investigate further by purchasing a New Testament.
Not knowing quite where to begin, but having always been fascinated by the Roman Empire, he started at the book of Romans.
He writes: “I didn’t understand much of it but halfway through I came across a passage that spoke of a way of life I wanted to be part of… it was a world view I’d been searching for ever since the 1960s. Suddenly, I’d found something… I felt I’d been looking for perhaps most of my adult life… a coherent philosophy I could really relate to. Christianity offered me that. The Christian worldview is love.”
Although Suchet read of Paul’s own dramatic conversion, he says, “Unlike Paul, I wasn’t immediately converted.” Although ‘the light had gone on’ he felt – as he did when undertaking a role – that commitment to faith required ‘in-depth analysis’. This ‘analysis’ involved over 20 years of investigating the Christian faith. Hence although his Christian experience began in 1986, David didn’t actually come to a profession of what he calls ‘total faith in Christianity’ until 2007.
For Suchet, one of the greatest challenges was belief in the resurrection of Jesus.
He says, “Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, says, ‘Without the resurrection there is no faith.’ So the whole of Christianity is based not only on the death, the crucifixion, of Jesus, but also on the resurrection. The early Christians believed he was divine because of the resurrection and, for me, without the resurrection, there is no faith. You cannot separate the cross from the resurrection, which is the greatest miracle justifying Christian belief in Jesus’ divinity.”
David says of his faith: “It’s stood me in good stead, my Christianity, in my profession, my private life, my personal life. I wouldn’t claim for a moment I’ve succeeded in following the way of love. I always feel I should have done better, but at least I know what’s right and wrong. In the end, I have to believe that God is in control and knows what’s going on.”
‘Behind the Lens’, by David Suchet, is published by Constable