"BIBLICAL THEMES IN CONTEMPORARY FILM"
Course Description and Overview
Teacher: Mr. Michaud
Throughout this semester course, in the review and criticism of contemporary films, students will share in a most exciting opportunity and adventure. It will be the chance to explore and experience how core concepts and themes of Christianity and the Bible resonate in the films of our own day and time.
The power of film to make "biblical themes" graphically come alive is undisputed. One sees the character of Oscar Schindler in "Schindler's List", or the character of Terry Molloy in "On The Waterfront", and suddenly one understands with incredible clarity concepts like "metanoia", "conversion", and "repentance". The stunning aesthetic symbolism of Zafarelli's film, "Brother Sun, Sister Moon", shows us the meaning of "paschal mystery" through the life of St. Francis in a way that words could never express. The "Power of One" gives us compelling visual images of authentic "Christian Freedom" - images that engrave themselves forever upon the mind and heart of the viewer. Over the course of the semester, students will literally see powerful scenes from over a 100 different films - powerful pictures that will impress upon the student as never before that dynamic "pictures are worth more than 1000's of words".
Film can command and control even difficult, complex "biblical themes" with unmatched visual artistry. "Chariots of Fire" does this with total mastery in its delineation of the "Law vs. Spirit" concept in St. Paul; or in its graphic representation of "being saved by grace", and not through a "rightiousness that people achieve through their own merit". "Babette's Feast" is a visual work of art that captures some of the most sublime concepts centering on the "Eucharist". Scenes from "The Pawnbroker" capture the salvific power of Jesus' Love, revealed and "given up" on the Cross, with unparalleled dramatic intensity.
The "invitation" to students then is to come and begin a most exciting adventure in exploration and criticism of contemporary film - and to do this in the light of powerful "biblical themes". Students themselves will be proactive in selecting both the films and the themes for the subject matter of class presentations. The fact is, there is a wealth of material to choose from. Consider even now some of the films that we will be able to select from - aside from and beyond the key films already mentioned above:
I Am David
The Spitfire Grill
Under The Tuscan Sun
Last of The Mohigans
Lord Of The Rings
The Cutting Edge
The Knight's Tale
Sleepless In Seattle
Jesus of Nazareth
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
A Few God Men
Scent Of A Woman
Akeelah and the Bee
Treasure Of The Sierra Madre
Dead Man Walking
Life Is Beautiful
Life Is A House
Save the Last Dance
How Green Was My Valley
The Ninth Configuration
A Time to Kill
Man for All Seasons
With respect to themes as well, we will need to select from such a wide range of concept options that students can explore, though the course will present a core of fundamental themes that are essential to an understanding of the Christian gospel. Some of these essential theme options that students can also research in films on their own for their projects, would include:
Law vs. Spirit
Life In The Spirit
Church vs. The World
Some Corollary Themes:
Signs - Sacramental Signs
Sacramental Images In Film
The Love Of The Cross: Unconditional Love - Love Like Only A God Can Love
Images Of Sanctity
Empty Ritual vs. Worship
Nominal Catholicism vs. Catholic Christianity Of The Heart
True Representations Of Church
The Transforming Power Of Love
The Dream Of Jesus - The Kingdom Of God
Authentic Christian Freedom
Theophany (eg., Manifestations Of God!) Imagery In Film
The Theologies Of Each Of The Evangelists
Goals And Objectives:
1.) To give the students a deeper appreciation of the spiritual significance of some films that number among the greatest of the last century.
2.) To give a deeper appreciation of biblical themes that represent core concepts of Christianity, Christian Living, and a Sacramental View Of Life.
3.) To engage students in "critical thinking" and discussion of film; to foster skills in critical analysis of film.
4.) To expose students to principles of film criticism:
a.) Power of Cinematography: to produce "Dramatic Intensity" - eg., to dramatically effect character and plot development through camera work, and through the elements of dramatic intensity.
b.) The Power of film editing to effect dramatic intensity; or, to accent and enhance important film themes.
c.) The power of sound, light, music, silence, wind to enhace dramatic effect.
d.) Dramatic intensity and audience involvement effected through skilled camera technique.
5.) The Journal (Weekly Notes!) - to create a course commentary on films of serious spiritual import. The commentary is to include not only course notes and insights from source texts, but also insights gleaned from student discussions of films.
1.) Course Handouts: These materials will provide the basis for all course content and for most test questions. Tests questions are also taken from class reflection and discussions.
2.) Finding God In The Movies - Catherine M. Barsotti and Robert K. Johnston, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 2004.
3.) Using Film In New Testament - Mark G. Boyer, University Press, New York, 2002.
4.) Finding God In The Lord of The Rings - Kurt Bruner, Jim Ware, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, 2001.