Balanced conversations about film... 3 questions to ask when you go into 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

Christian discrimination is called for, but in two senses of that word. Not only should Christian moviegoers be at times selective, but they must also become knowledgeable film viewers as well.

Robert K. Johnston, Reel Spirituality: Theology and film in dialogue 

I love studying the Bible. I love watching film. 

Many Christians would say these two things would be a contradiction in terms. They are missing the point and the culture. In this visual era, I think they go hand in hand. 

I recently started a dialogue on the reasoning behind the attacks on the film ‘Noah’ and the lack of attack on films like ‘Son of God’ and ‘Heaven is for Real.’ All of these films have their weaknesses in biblical interpretation, some with more challenges than others. Unfortunately most of the Christian critics due not discuss the variations in production quality in these films. The lack of balance in these arguments seem to be concerned with the film’s ability to tick all of their theological boxes, but miss the discussion of quality of the film.

Film is the choice of entertainment for most of modern culture. Filming biblical stories and accounts have been going on since movie making began and will continue for years to come. Some of the most successful films in history have found their source material in the biblical narrative, because the source material is so rich. (Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, The Passion of the Christ)

For the sake of a balanced conversation in critique of film and its biblical content, let me suggest three questions when you go into a film: 

How good was the film? What did this film have to say about God? How can we get into further conversations about the God and the Bible?

Why these three questions? 

1. How good was the film? The quality of the film determines if it will have an audience. Production quality would include, direction acting, writing and visual effects. Unfortunately most Christian productions miss this key issue and miss the opportunity for building an audience. Not all popular films are of good quality, but it does make a difference in building an audience. 

2. What did this film have to say about God? Should we expect the film making culture to make films that tick all of the boxes of our theology? No. Even the best Christian films do not meet this criteria. This leaves us with evaluating the discussion of God in the film. All films have some door to a spiritual conversation, but we have to be looking for them before we start viewing them. If we can ask the question of what the film has to say about God, we can begin to consider a theological basis for discussion.

3. How can we get into further conversations about the God and the Bible? If you have taken the time to consider the second question, then it can move you into this question. Considering what made you think about God and the Bible in the film will assist you in how to have a deeper conversation after viewing the film. 

It 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, are you willing to be part of the discussion? 

Article written by Russell Matthews @ Russelling Reviews