Balanced film conversations
Three questions to ask when you go to the cinema
“I didn’t want you to enjoy the film. I wanted you to look very closely at your own soul.” - Sam Peckinpah, director of The Wild Bunch
I love studying the Bible. I love watching film.
Many people might say these two things would be a contradiction in terms. If this is your fall back position, you might be missing the point and the potential impact that film has on our culture. The surprising aspect is that in this visual era, these two things can go hand in hand. Studying the Bible and enjoying a film. Crazy? Keep reading.
In a conversation a few years back, I started a dialogue on the reasoning behind the attacks on the film Noah by Christians and the lack of vitriol for films like Son of God and Heaven is for Real. All three of these films have their weaknesses in biblical interpretation and some have more challenges than others. Unfortunately, many of the Christian critics choose not to discuss the variations in production quality in these movies. While on the other side of things, the majority of mainstream reviewers seem to miss the spiritual dimension of filmmaking. To not have a holistic approach to these films lacks balance. For many Christians, there is a concern with a film’s ability to tick all of the necessary theological boxes. Something that leads to an artistic blindness and missing the opportunity to discuss the quality of the film. Then the other camp would prefer to side step the 'God' question that a film may be asking. To not strike a balance between the two perspectives, lacks a depth of awareness of the human experience.
We live in a visual and a spiritual era.
Watching movies is the chosen form of entertainment for most of our modern culture. Some audiences may access the content in theatres, others on the television and eve more on the small screen in their pocket. Wherever it is consumed does not matter as much as the fact that society is consuming video content at an alarming rate. Filming biblical stories and accounts has been going on since movie making began and will continue for years to come. Many of the most successful films in history have found their source material in the biblical narrative. This only makes sense since the source material is so rich with great storylines. The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur and The Passion of the Christ are some that provide you a short list.
For the sake of a balanced conversation in the critique of film and its biblical content, let me suggest three questions to consider when you go into a film:
How was the film's production quality? Simply, did you like it and why?
What did this film have to say about God?
Does the connection between God and film make a difference in the human experience?
Let's look into their application a bit more.
1. How was the film's production quality?
The quality of the film determines if it will gain recognition and following. Production quality includes direction, acting, writing, visual effects and so much more. Story is critical to the film's production. Quality is a combination of all of these components. Unfortunately, most Christian productions miss this key component and the opportunity for building an audience. Not to say that all popular films are the highest calibre, but it does make a difference in building an audience. At the end of the film, were you taken away into the world the director is creating or did you wish you could get those two hours back? This is a good starting point when viewing a film and one that is easy to have with go to see the movie with you. Quality.
2. What did this film have to say about the spiritual side of humanity and God?
Maybe you have never thought about the connection, but does the film communicate anything about humanity and God? Take a moment to evaluate the portrayal of the discussion of the spiritual side of life. You would be surprised, but all films have some door to a spiritual conversation. The first step is to acknowledge this element, because we have to be looking for them before we start to see them. If we can ask what the film has to say about the spiritual aspects of existence or God, then we can begin to consider a basis for discussion. Just think about the spiritual influence of film, finish this sentence, "May the ... be with you." This quote could start to build the argument that all films have a spiritual element.
3. How does the connection between God and the film make a difference in life?
If you have taken the time to consider the second question, then it is easy to see how you would ask the third. Considering what made you think about God in the film will assist you in having a more in-depth conversation after leaving the theatre. Also, it may cause a deeper evaluation of your own lives.
All these questions might cause some to ask, "Aren’t movies just entertainment?"
Yes and no.
They are meant to be entertainment, but the impact that films have on our culture goes deeper than sheer pleasure. They make us think about ourselves, they give us ‘lines’ and stories that are reflected in our own lives and they help in shaping the thoughts of our culture.
People are talking about what is on at the cinema and people are talking about God, are you willing to be part of the discussion?
If you would like to have a deeper conversation about these three questions, message us at Reel Dialogue. We will strive to get back to you soon.
Stay safe, stay healthy and see you at the movies.