“Film has become the new text by which many around the globe now pose the crucial questions about life.”
Considering that nearly every youth pastor in the country obsessively quoted The Matrix when it reached blockbuster status (and only seemed to use the movie for illustrations rather than critical interaction of ideas), I think that this chapter is worth taking note of. Movies have, no doubt, reached new levels of influence with emerging generations, and in many ways, are landmarks for cultural self-awareness.
Sleasman lays out three key directions from which to analyze a movie text:
- The World-Behind-the-Text: “The world behind the text is most simply viewed as the background for a film, which may include genre, social context, cinematic influences, and most importantly the director.” P. 135
- The World-of-the-Text: “The world-of-the-text involves the formal features of the text and, from a technical standpoint, is the most difficult section to analyze.” P. 137
- The World-in-Front-of-the-Text: “The meaning – the complex interchange between the actual symbols of the text and the intention of the author – influences the response that the text generates by suggesting alternative ways of living and being.” P. 139
Sleasman goes on to address the issue of competing interpretations, stating:
“Basic criteria for discernment may include the largest in scope (the explanation that most adequately covers the largest amount of data), the simplest explanation (given two seemingly equal explanations, the simpler explanation is preferred), the explanation that takes the data most literally, and/or the explanation that appears to be the most likely.” P. 140
Sleasman eventually goes on to offer “hope” as the “guiding thread” which gives coherence to the film, but that is beyond my interest here.
What I am interested in is what you might think of the ways to address competing interpretations, and/or if we need to? Also, based on the thrust of this book, that we should be engaging cultural texts, then how should Christians, in general, engage the medium of movies? Should we be, as is often the case, showing how movies offer a glimpse of the gospel, even though it might be hidden and marred? Or should we be seeking to show how the stories in movies are an anti-gospel of some sort? What are your thoughts?