Evangelical Cinema and Culture

Discuss films of the 21st century including current cinema, current filmmakers, and film festivals.
Post Reply
Message
Author
User avatar
solaris72
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 3:03 pm
Location: Baltimore, MD

Re: Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#201 Post by solaris72 » Wed Aug 20, 2014 1:11 pm

Drucker wrote:Solaris, I'm not a religion expert by any means (lapsed/atheist/Jew), and Ordet happens to be the Dreyer film I have seen least recently, but Day Of Wrath and Passion of Joan of Arc are incredibly critical of religion and religious authority figures, and should at the very least think of those if you are taking into account what might be Dreyer's beliefs.

Personally, I'd argue Dreyer's sense of spirituality certainly transcends and goes beyond the ideas of any one faith.
I'll agree on Day of Wrath, but The Passion of Joan of Arc seems both politically and spiritually protestant- politically, the institution it is critiquing is the Catholic Church, and the spiritual struggle is Joan submitting to her own conscience regarding her own personal religious belief vs. submitting to the corporate belief of the church.

As to your last point regarding his sense of spirituality- I agree that his sense of spirituality has a universal appeal. I feel this way also about Tarkovsky's sense of spirituality, and Malick's, and honestly any worthwhile spiritual filmmaker or artist in general. Which brings us back to the earlier subject of the movie "God's Not Dead," and how it was a movie made to preach to the choir, only made to appeal to and reassure American evangelicals. It brings to mind for me GK Chesterton's praise of William Blake. (Forgive the wall of text.)
GK Chesterton wrote:It is worth while to describe this quarrel between Blake and Stothard, because it is really a symbolic quarrel, interesting to the whole world of artists and important to the whole destiny of art. It is the quarrel between the artist who is a poet and the artist who is only a painter. In many of his merely technical designs Blake was a better and bolder artist than Stothard; still, I should admit, and most people who saw the two pictures would be ready to admit, that Stothard's Canterbury Pilgrims as a mere piece of drawing and painting is better than Blake's. But this if anything only makes the whole argument more certain. It is the duel between the artist who wishes only to be an artist and the artist who has the higher and harder ambition to be a man—that is, an archangel. Or, again, it might be put thus: whether an artist ought to be a universalist or whether he is better as a specialist. Now against the specialist, against the man who studies only art or electricity, or the violin, or the thumbscrew or what not, there is only one really important argument, and that, for some reason or other, is never offered. People say that specialists are inhuman; but that is unjust. People say an expert is not a man; but that is unkind and untrue. The real difficulty about the specialist or expert is much more singular and fascinating. The trouble with the expert is never that he is not a man; it is always that wherever he is not an expert he is too much of an ordinary man. Wherever he is not exceptionally learned he is quite casually ignorant.
However, I do still think it is worthwhile to understand the roots of the spirituality presented in a film. There are aspects that are universal to different streams of spirituality, and there are aspects that are not. There are philosophical differences between the concept of Christians worshiping a triune godhead through a named deity who physically incarnated, vs. Jews worshiping an unnameable invisible and indivisible deity, vs. Buddhists who are nontheistic, vs. Jainists who are specifically atheistic.

User avatar
swo17
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
Location: SLC, UT

Re: Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#202 Post by swo17 » Wed Aug 20, 2014 1:19 pm

Joan of Arc is against abuse of religious power, sure, but I don't know that it's against the Catholic church per se. Hasn't the Vatican called it one of the best religious films of all time?

User avatar
Drucker
Your Future our Drucker
Joined: Wed May 18, 2011 9:37 am

Re: Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#203 Post by Drucker » Wed Aug 20, 2014 1:22 pm

It's hard for me to agree that any Dreyer film is truly grounded in a given religion. In his essay book Dreyer in Double Reflection there is very little reference to writing about religion (the noteworthy exceptions being about Jesus's story and condemning anti-semitism). Dreyer is first, foremost, and always, a filmmaker, and while certainly there are religious subtexts in some of his films, I don't find a real consistency there that would overwhelmingly ascribe religious meaning to his films (Master Of The House, Gertrud, The President, Vampyr: all of these seem nearly fully devoid of it). I find, like Griffith, he is more interested in morality, good versus evil, and right and wrong. Unlike Griffith, those attributes seem less determined by the social/religious/political order of the day.

And I really don't know anything about any religion except Judaism, and what I've picked up from my wife's Italian family regarding Catholicism (more criticism than anything else), so I will take your word on it for Ordet being Protestant.

User avatar
solaris72
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 3:03 pm
Location: Baltimore, MD

Re: Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#204 Post by solaris72 » Wed Aug 20, 2014 1:24 pm

swo17 wrote:Joan of Arc is against abuse of religious power, sure, but I don't know that it's against the Catholic church per se. Hasn't the Vatican called it one of the best religious films of all time?
It has. Although at the time it was to be made, its filming was delayed by French nationalists who were angry that Dreyer wasn't a Catholic (and wasn't French), and Dreyer later sued the Société Générale, claiming that they mutilated the film to avoid offending Catholic viewers.

User avatar
RobertB
Joined: Fri Jan 08, 2010 8:00 pm
Location: Sweden

Re: Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#205 Post by RobertB » Wed Aug 20, 2014 1:38 pm

I see nothing in Ordet denying that God is involved in our world, on the contrary. And I see nothing in Joan of Arc implicating that Joan wasn't visited by an angel. But I think both films are advocating a private belief as better than any large organized Christian church. This goes very well with Scandinavian Lutheranism.

Ingmar Bergman did go to the local Lutheran church at the end of his life, and discussed religion with the priest. He also said in interviews that he believed he would see his wife again after death. My interpretation of faith in his films is that he felt that belief in God has to exist, even if Bergman wasn't sure what God actually is. Again a thought that goes very well in the Lutheran church of Sweden.

Because Scandinavian Lutheranism puts very little importance in rituals and displays of faith, it might be easy to miss in films. The same probably goes for Christian ideas in some German films.

User avatar
matrixschmatrix
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 11:26 pm

Re: Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#206 Post by matrixschmatrix » Wed Aug 20, 2014 1:56 pm

I think it's worth interjecting here the collaborations between Scorsese and Schraeder, which is the combination of a deeply Catholic filmmaker (if one who is not precisely doctrinal in his outlook) and a deeply Protestant (if a bit lapsed) screenwriter, which are almost universally concerned with matters moral, metaphysical, and religious- but as with Dreyer, Malick, Pasolini, and Bresson, in his way, they approach religion not as a question to be argued but a part of humanity that has an exercise upon the will, something that infects or touches or graces everyone regardless of what they profess to believe.

There are certainly great religious films that touch on questions of doctrine and of arguments within doctrines- I think one could point there to both The Passion of Joan of Arc and to Ordet, and the question of how to go about living gracefully is central to Tree of Live, The Last Temptation of Christ, and even The Flowers of Saint Francis- but to the best of my knowledge, in every single one of those movies the enforcement of strict doctrine and concern with adherence to authority, secular or religious, is presented as something that becomes rapidly twisted and hateful, and distracts from the core meaning of the religious experience. Ordet is iconoclastic in embracing the humanity of Christ, and the idea that Christ's return might be in a despised and unrecognized vessel- or that the question of who or what Christ is might itself be irrelevant, that Christ is everywhere if He is anywhere. That strikes me as being very in line with quite a few Protestant traditions, but that isn't to say it's anti-Catholic, it's more that it's a specific illustration of a key piece of Protestant dogma. The Passion of Joan of Arc, on the other hand, though similar in that it insists on the specific and personal connection to God that sustains Joan, depicts someone who is sanctified in her resistance to suffering and in the strength of her faith- again, not ideas that are anti-Protestant, but which are perhaps more central to the Catholic virtues and worldview (though evangelicals have lately become hungry for martyrs, without being overly concerned about what or why they are being martyred.) In all Dreyer's religious films, the persecutors are themselves figures who would consider themselves Christian, and simple belief in God or in Christ is no great virtue- faith is distinguished from simple belief, and requires more than assertions that God's Not Dead to have any meaning to the viewer.

In general, though, I think a great religious film is necessarily one that can be great to someone who has no interest in religion, or at least no particular religious beliefs of their own. My girlfriend's father is both a very serious atheist and a man whose favorite movie is The Flowers of Saint Francis, and I don't see any meaningful contradiction there. It's hard to imagine that being said of any of the movies made by evangelicals to be sold via block ticket packages to mega churches.

User avatar
jwd5275
Joined: Tue Jun 08, 2010 12:26 pm
Location: SF, CA

Re: Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#207 Post by jwd5275 » Wed Aug 20, 2014 3:00 pm

It is worth noting that the writer of the review linked to above criticizing God Is Not Dead looks to be an evangelical himself. There are plenty of evangelicals out there that do not accept the right wing politics such as homophobia and xenophobia as part of 'being a Christian'. There are also evangelicals (James K. A. Smith for example) who are engaged in meaningful philosophy, not weak attempts at apologetics. The prevailing right wing christian culture in the US, while self-identifying as 'evangelicalism', is really christian fundamentalism.

American evangelicals came up from the evangelical movement in the 18th century Anglican Church (there are many Anglicans that still identify as evangelical) which created the Methodist church. It is what we would associate with the Great Awakenings in the US. Fundamentalism is rooted both in the 19th century holiness movements and their emphasis on moral perfection (the root of travesties like the temperance movement) and an early 20th century reaction to the perceived threats of Darwinism. While fundamentalism did develop within the evangelical world, all evangelicals are not christian fundamentalists.

User avatar
matrixschmatrix
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 11:26 pm

Re: Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#208 Post by matrixschmatrix » Wed Aug 20, 2014 3:06 pm

That's a fair distinction, certainly, and there are movies made within the broad 'evangelical' cultural umbrella that aren't the noxious examples that have been making a splash this year- it's my understanding that Blue Like Jazz would fit into that category. It is also true, though, that when someone is vocally against the right-wing fundamentalism associated with American evangelicals, the people who control the discourse within that community do their best to kick them out- it's an issue that blogger Slacktivist (himself a non-right wing evangelical) has addressed at length.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#209 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 20, 2014 3:24 pm

Yes, as I wrote up a couple pages back, Blue Like Jazz is refreshingly honest about the ups and downs of personal faith, and though its ultimate message is one of pro-Christianity, it certainly doesn't pull its punches. It seems so much more of a piece with the really good mainstream Christian films that Hollywood used to make during the studio system, a trend all but extinct post classic era. Other good recent (within the last ten years) American films that tackle faith with honesty and interest are Wenders' Land of Plenty and Vera Farmiga's Higher Ground

I hope all of you save/expand/continue these arguments in December onwards for our next List Project, Religious Films!

User avatar
Drucker
Your Future our Drucker
Joined: Wed May 18, 2011 9:37 am

Re: Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#210 Post by Drucker » Wed Aug 20, 2014 3:26 pm

On that topic, there was a film I saw a trailer for a few years ago, but never got to see, and now forget the name of. Can someone help? It was about a Jewish family where the son writes some sort of award winning essay and credits it to his (possibly senile?) father. It becomes acclaimed and award winning, and I believe the father begins to take the credit. I think the father was a respected Rabbi, too.

This film was released relatively recently. I saw a trailer for it while seeing A Separation.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#211 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 20, 2014 3:28 pm

Drucker wrote:On that topic, there was a film I saw a trailer for a few years ago, but never got to see, and now forget the name of. Can someone help? It was about a Jewish family where the son writes some sort of award winning essay and credits it to his (possibly senile?) father. It becomes acclaimed and award winning, and I believe the father begins to take the credit. I think the father was a respected Rabbi, too.

This film was released relatively recently. I saw a trailer for it while seeing A Separation.
Footnote, also distro'd by Sony Classics. It's a pretty good little film, was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar. I'd classify it more as a work about academia and research methods than necessarily faith. I'm not a Talmudic scholar but I still got most of the drama/relatablility from having been in college for a million years

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#212 Post by knives » Wed Aug 20, 2014 3:42 pm

Though Sony did recently release a great film on Judaism called Fill the Void.

User avatar
zedz
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

Re: Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#213 Post by zedz » Wed Aug 20, 2014 7:46 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Drucker wrote:On that topic, there was a film I saw a trailer for a few years ago, but never got to see, and now forget the name of. Can someone help? It was about a Jewish family where the son writes some sort of award winning essay and credits it to his (possibly senile?) father. It becomes acclaimed and award winning, and I believe the father begins to take the credit. I think the father was a respected Rabbi, too.

This film was released relatively recently. I saw a trailer for it while seeing A Separation.
Footnote, also distro'd by Sony Classics. It's a pretty good little film, was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar. I'd classify it more as a work about academia and research methods than necessarily faith. I'm not a Talmudic scholar but I still got most of the drama/relatablility from having been in college for a million years
It's a good film, if a little overegged stylistically. The plot is actually quite different, though, than what you describe. Don't read on if you're afraid of mild spoilers.

Father and son are both Talmudic scholars: father a crotchety, bitter old purist; son a popularizer whose entire approach is witheringly disdained by dad. Son is awarded a prestigious government prize, but the confirmation letter is mistakenly sent to dad, who (rather gracelessly) thinks it's about-time recognition for his years of quiet toil. The son is apprised of the error, but says he'd rather forgo the honour in perpetuity than rain on his dad's parade. The authorities reluctantly agree to go along with this. In the meantime, dad misses no opportunity to rub his son's nose in his 'victory' and generally becomes more insufferable than ever.

That sounds like it's a lot, but it's really only the set-up: the rest of the film concerns the son trying, in the most esoteric and appropriate way, to get his own back.

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#214 Post by knives » Wed Aug 20, 2014 9:16 pm

Also to clarify something real quick, without having seen Footnote, academia and research would technically be able to fall under religious stuff for Judaism. Actual priests in the religion have not really done anything for about two thousand years and rabbis, as the name implies, are intended to be teachers and scholars. There's even a law regarding scholastic activity and a variation of the scientific method which is the basis of talmudic research.

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#215 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Aug 20, 2014 9:27 pm

matrixschmatrix wrote:I think it's worth interjecting here the collaborations between Scorsese and Schraeder, which is the combination of a deeply Catholic filmmaker (if one who is not precisely doctrinal in his outlook) and a deeply Protestant (if a bit lapsed) screenwriter, which are almost universally concerned with matters moral, metaphysical, and religious- but as with Dreyer, Malick, Pasolini, and Bresson, in his way, they approach religion not as a question to be argued but a part of humanity that has an exercise upon the will, something that infects or touches or graces everyone regardless of what they profess to believe.
Interesting to note that Scorsese's most Catholic film, Raging Bull, uses its religious element symbolically. The boxing ring is purgatory, where La motta works off his estimable burden of sin, his very boxing style predicated on taking punishment while always moving forward. The worse he behaves, the greater the punishment he accepts in the ring, up until he's on the ropes, waving Sugar Ray Robinson on, and smiling afterwards, saying "you never got me down, Ray." La Motta is determined not to be dragged down by his sins; no matter how large the penance, he will work it off. He will keep some form if balance.

Without that penance, his sins bloat his body grotesquely and pull him finally into hell, that basement prison, where he beats his head against the wall in a futile attempt to make it back to purgatory where at least there was hope, where he could believe if he suffered hard enough he could be a man and not an animal.

The Catholicism of the characters and ethos becomes the symbolic structure of the movie. But it's less a religious Catholicism than a cultural one. It forms a structure of meaning that those familiar with the culture can understand, but the religious elements are aesthetic rather than metaphysical. It is deeply religious without requiring an ounce of belief.

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#216 Post by knives » Wed Aug 20, 2014 9:32 pm

At that point why would you differ between religious and cultural since so much of the language of your analysis is only understandable if one recognizes the christian/ Catholic contexts for those terms.

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#217 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Aug 20, 2014 9:36 pm

Not sure I would differ. Religion is culture. Genuine belief in the metaphysical does not need to enter the discourse.

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#218 Post by knives » Wed Aug 20, 2014 9:39 pm

I agree, but your earlier sentence quoted below doesn't seem to.
Mr Sausage wrote: But it's less a religious Catholicism than a cultural one.

User avatar
Michael Kerpan
Spelling Bee Champeen
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 1:20 pm
Location: New England
Contact:

Re: Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#219 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Aug 20, 2014 10:21 pm

Bunuel is MY favorite religious film maker.

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#220 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Aug 20, 2014 10:52 pm

knives wrote:I agree, but your earlier sentence quoted below doesn't seem to.
Mr Sausage wrote: But it's less a religious Catholicism than a cultural one.
Sorry, I'm writing this all on my phone after a tiring day of hiking. What I meant was that it uses religious patterns and motifs whose significance the characters understand implicitly, but belief hardly enters into it.

User avatar
Roger Ryan
Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2010 12:04 pm
Location: A Midland town spread and darkened into a city

Re: Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#221 Post by Roger Ryan » Thu Aug 21, 2014 8:19 am

zedz wrote:...It's a good film, if a little overegged stylistically. The plot is actually quite different, though, than what you describe...
In regards to FOOTNOTE, there is also a strong subtext that I believe comments on the political situation in Israel. It's been a while since I've seen it, but the emphasis on characters constantly passing through security checkpoints and being observed by security cameras seems like a deliberate attempt to add another layer to the story, as is the ambiguous ending that leaves it to the viewer to determine what the proper moral outcome should be.

Movie-Brat
Joined: Fri Jan 31, 2014 4:14 am

Re: Worst DVD Covers...ever! (Part 4)

#222 Post by Movie-Brat » Thu Aug 28, 2014 4:53 am

Sweet Jiminy Christmas, people.

http://www.impawards.com/2014/saving_christmas.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

User avatar
dx23
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 8:52 pm
Location: Puerto Rico

Re: Worst DVD Covers...ever! (Part 4)

#223 Post by dx23 » Thu Aug 28, 2014 5:12 pm

Image

User avatar
Gregory
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 4:07 pm

Re: Worst DVD Covers...ever! (Part 4)

#224 Post by Gregory » Thu Aug 28, 2014 5:20 pm

Finally Christians in the United States will be able to worship and celebrate Christmas freely, and the seldom-heard nativity story will finally be known! Well, that or things will go on just as before and Kirk Cameron will make money playing to an easy niche market.

In other news: "distressed" stencil fonts—still overused due to ongoing desperate attempts to make things look badass.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Worst DVD Covers...ever! (Part 4)

#225 Post by domino harvey » Thu Aug 28, 2014 5:26 pm

The first time I saw the poster I thought the snowglobe he's clutching to his chest was a t-shirt design. Also apparently this film is a sequel/tribute to This Island Earth? That's all I have to contribute to this poster discussion.

Post Reply