Gordon Matties

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.


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