WHAT DO MOVIES DO?
Canadian Mennonite University
1. Movies express a
worldview, or an ideology. “Any
cultural product or creation carries, implicitly or explicitly, ideas about how
the world is or should be seen and how men and women see each other in it.” Movies “are never innocent visions of the
world” (Corrigan, A Short Guide to
Writing About Film, 87).
2. Movies create an
imaginary world that looks, in most cases, like the real world. Does the film offer a vision of what we
might take for granted but see as though for the first time? Does the film create a world that
intertwines entertainment and politics in subtle ways? Does the movie undermine or support the
beliefs or moral vision of the viewer?
How does the movie depict “the world,” and the shape of relationships
within that world. What is human
identity in that world? What’s
wrong? What’s right?
3. Movies invite us to live
inside that world for a short time.
Living inside the fiction, we learn to discern truth from falsehood,
good from evil. We learn to find who we
are, where we are, and where we are going.
The movie doesn’t do the work of discernment for us, but by inviting us
to live inside another world for a time we are faced with seeing ourselves and
our world from another vantage point.
And having seen, we are invited to make choices.
4. Movies usually intensify
some aspect of human experience: murder, violence, comedy, perversity,
apocalypse, encounter with an alien, war, cosmic battles, male/female differences,
romance, sexuality. (Ostwalt, Screening the Sacred, 155). Through excess movies push us to the edge,
to the door of our finite perceptions of reality, or outside the ordinary. And in so doing they raise religious or
theological questions of ultimate concern, commitment, virtue, and truth.
5. Movies speak a language
with multiple dialects, cadences, voices: Each aspect of the film contributes
to the whole, to its meaning. Because
it works at so many levels, film can have insidious power or extravagant
grace. For this reason film invites
critical reflection on experience. It
offers a wonderful opportunity to bring experience, analysis, emotion and
action together. Film is “kinaesthetic”
in that it involves our whole being.
Film therefore creates a context for discernment that is
holistic--theologically, ethically, and spiritually.
6. Therefore they offer us
an experience of otherness by inviting us into another world, sometimes
violently so, but in that otherness we are either consoled or transformed, even
if for a few hours. This corresponds to
what May calls the mythic or the parabolic function of film. As myth film can calm our fears and order
our world. But film can also offer a
means of transformation or exorcism.
Either we see reality through film as a place where grace can
appear. Or we see reality in a new way
so as to exorcise the evil among us.