Thursday, May 15, 2008

Another blog?

I know there are a lot of blogs already out there on faith and film or film and philosophy -- there are even some blogs that already combine all three. (I have linked to some of them on my blogroll. It should go without saying that I don't agree with the perspective of all the bloggers represented there.)

But I think I have a fresh perspective to add. As a post-evangelical (or emergent or postmodern or whatever) Episcopalian, I have a very different view of the nature of both art and religion than do most of the "filmosophy" bloggers already out there. (I know my view is different because I tried teaching it to the traditional evangelical filmmakers at Biola University and they wanted to crucify me.)

For me art is about interpreting the world from a particular perspective. This means art is doing the same thing as philosophy. And religion is a narrative which embodies in its hearers and tellers certain habits of thought, feeling, imagining, and acting. This means that evangelism is about telling God's story -- teaching people to see how God is at work in the world, redeeming the world through Christ.

There is one important implication of this view: all movies are evangelistic. All movies "project a world" (as Nicholas Wolterstorff argues), interpreting the world from the filmmakers' perspective, interpreting our lives by putting recognizable events into a meaningful narrative and teaching us to see the world in a certain way. Art, philosophy, and religion all create meaning in this way.

I'm sure I'll post more about this stuff later. For now, I've got movies to watch...


The Feminarian said...

Do all movies project a world or just good movies? Is it just evangelistic when the filmmakers set out to do that, or are there unintentional worlds projected? I wonder about the world-projecting power of something trite or stupid.

The Film Philosopher said...

Hi, Feminarian, thanks for your question.

I think all movies project a world. It's been 10 years since I read Wolterstorff (I'd like to read it again), so I don't remember how he defines "world-projection", but I think it has something to do with the fact that every story has a "worldview". Every story makes certain assumptions about how the world is (what is real, valuable, how human psychology works, etc.).

Moreover, I suspect that the very concept of "world" is necessarily narrative in nature -- though I'm still working on this idea. So simply by virtue of the fact that a movie is a narrative (i.e., is a sequence of events leading to a single conclusion), it is in the business of world-projection.

What's interesting about this is that narratives are also central to ethics and the meaning of life. "Evil" is that which frustrates our desire to interpret it according to a plausible narrative -- as opposed to "bad" which is a narrative aimed at the "wrong" conclusion. So narrative theory gives us one way of critiquing the worldview of a movie.

We can critique the film according to Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience: Is the film's narrative rationally coherent? Does it fit with the traditional narratives to which our community is committed? How helpful is the film's narrative in making sense of our experience? Does the narrative work with God's self-revelation in Scripture -- does it open up new and fruitful readings of Scripture or deaden our ability to hear God's voice?

Presumably "something trite or stupid" would give us unsatisfactory answers to these questions. What's important is to realize that we can only criticize a narrative by giving another narrative which we think better helps us understand the world.

Ryan T. Bradley said...

I think evangelicals and/or the modern church at large would be much more effective if they tried hard to let the Church speak for itself. This is particularly true in any artistic medium, including film. I consider myself a post modernist and the reason is that I want authentic cultures to re capture what made them existentially viable in the first place, rather than the convoluted mess that is modernity.

Cool blog.