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Full-Text Articles in Religion

Eternal Now: Recent Time Loop Movies And The Sanctity Of The Moment, John C. Lyden Dec 2018

Eternal Now: Recent Time Loop Movies And The Sanctity Of The Moment, John C. Lyden

Journal of Religion & Film

I will examine three time-loop films—Source Code (2011), About Time (2013), and Before I Fall (2017)—to suggest that while they all look to this world as the place where meaning can be found, they do not entirely reject transcendence. The hero of Source Code actually transcends the cycle only when he accepts to exist in it fully, suggesting a view like Buddhism that one only finds transcendence when one stops looking for it. In About Time the hero learns that he must accept certain things that he cannot change, and that his ability to relive the past without ...


Terrence Malick Beyond Nature And Grace: Song To Song And The Experience Of Forgiveness, Elisa Zocchi Oct 2018

Terrence Malick Beyond Nature And Grace: Song To Song And The Experience Of Forgiveness, Elisa Zocchi

Journal of Religion & Film

In The Tree of Life Terrence Malick poses the question of the relation between the order of grace and the order of nature in the cosmos and in human existence, a question presented through the relation of mother and father in the O'Brien family. The aim of this article is to analyze this issue and to present the role of glory in The Tree of Life as the transfiguration of nature operated by grace. Specifically, the example of forgiveness as one strand of this glory seems to be an helpful tool to understand the movie. Forgiveness, already present in ...


"Fake It Until You Make It:" A Reflection On Film, Hypocrisy, And Christian Ethics, William Bartley Mar 2018

"Fake It Until You Make It:" A Reflection On Film, Hypocrisy, And Christian Ethics, William Bartley

Journal of Religion & Film

I will argue that a representative group of films including Mr. Lucky (with Cary Grant), Rossellini’s Il Generale della Rovere, and Galaxy Quest affirm an assumption that is as well known as it is offensively false to many: i.e., we acquire a virtue or quality of character by pretending that we already possess it—the ethic colloquially and popularly known as “fake it until you make it.” The importance and power of this ethic, as thoroughly secular as it seems to be, is best understood in the context of its Roman Catholic and ancient philosophical provenance, which for ...


Scorsese’S Silence: Film As Practical Theodicy, Ian Deweese-Boyd Sep 2017

Scorsese’S Silence: Film As Practical Theodicy, Ian Deweese-Boyd

Journal of Religion & Film

Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence takes up the anguished experience of God’s silence in the face of human suffering. The main character, the Jesuit priest Sabastião Rodrigues, finds his faith gutted by the appalling silence of God as he witnesses the horrific persecution of Christians in seventeenth century Japan. Yujin Nagasawa calls the particularly intense combination of the problems of divine hiddenness and evil the problem of divine absence that resists resolution through explanations that have typically characterized the theodicies offered by philosophers. Drawing on the thought of Ignatius of Loyola, this essay explores ...


The Little Hours, Frederick Ruf, Kathryn Wade Sep 2017

The Little Hours, Frederick Ruf, Kathryn Wade

Journal of Religion & Film

This is a film review of The Little Hours (2017), directed by Jeff Baena.


“To See My Home Before I Die”: The Trip To Bountiful, Memento Mori, And The Experience Of Death, Margaret Sullivan Apr 2017

“To See My Home Before I Die”: The Trip To Bountiful, Memento Mori, And The Experience Of Death, Margaret Sullivan

Journal of Religion & Film

This article analyzes the portrayal of death in Peter Masterson’s 1985 film The Trip to Bountiful. My claim is that the experience of death, in the film, functions as a tool both for the elderly main character’s increased self-understanding and for her conscious, ethical action. I enter this discussion through an examination of late deconstruction’s ethical turn and the argument that aporetic unknowing, if experienced and endured, leads to the chance for real, authentic action. I then demonstrate how the film depicts such an aporetic encounter with death, and do so, in large part, by focusing on ...


Zen Noir Vis-À-Vis Myers-Briggs Personality Typology: Semiotic Multivalency As Grounds For Dialog, Edward J. Godfrey Oct 2016

Zen Noir Vis-À-Vis Myers-Briggs Personality Typology: Semiotic Multivalency As Grounds For Dialog, Edward J. Godfrey

Journal of Religion & Film

Marc Rosenbush’s film, Zen Noir (2004) is at first glance a Buddhist film wherein a troubled detective finds himself at a Zen temple with a murder to solve. But upon further investigation, it becomes evident that the film can also be understood in terms of Myers-Briggs personality typology, which is an extension of the personology and depth psychology of C.G. Jung. This suggests a multivalency which allows the imagery of the film to be interpreted in two different ways; as both suggesting Zen enlightenment and Jungian individuation. To assist with this comparison, this paper introduces the Ten Ox-Herding ...


Six Ways Of Looking At Anomalisa, David L. Smith Oct 2016

Six Ways Of Looking At Anomalisa, David L. Smith

Journal of Religion & Film

Anomalisa is a parable about the nature of human fulfilment that explores the tension between other-worldly desire (the conviction that real life must be “elsewhere”) and the kind of fulfilment that comes from a more transparent relationship to things as they are. The film explores this religious theme not only through its story, but through the way the story comments on its own embodiment as a puppet show—a work of stop-motion animation. In this paper, I try to tease out the film’s complex reflections on the real and the artificial (in particular, on the ways that a desire ...


Suffering And Soul-Making In Disney/Pixar’S Inside Out, Bertha A. Manninen Ph.D. Apr 2016

Suffering And Soul-Making In Disney/Pixar’S Inside Out, Bertha A. Manninen Ph.D.

Journal of Religion & Film

John Hick (1922-2012) was an extremely influential philosopher of religion who wrote ground-breaking essays in the areas of religious epistemology, religious pluralism, and the problem of evil. With specific reference to the latter, in his book Evil and the God of Love(1966), Hick devised what has come to be known as the “soul-making theodicy” – in essence, Hick argues that one of the reasons God allows so much apparently pointless suffering in the world is because it is an essential aspect of advancing our moral and spiritual education.

Although perhaps an unlikely venue, I will argue that Disney/Pixar’s ...


Climbing A Ladder To Heaven. Gnostic Vision Of The World In Jacob's Ladder (1990), Fryderyk Kwiatkowski Oct 2015

Climbing A Ladder To Heaven. Gnostic Vision Of The World In Jacob's Ladder (1990), Fryderyk Kwiatkowski

Journal of Religion & Film

Contemporary film-makers quite willingly employ motifs typical of various gnostic trends. The author shows that ancient gnosticism is a treasury of motifs and a source of aesthetical and narrative strategies present in contemporary cinema. The article treats Jacob’s Ladder (1990, dir. Adrian Lyne) which is analyzed through Gnostic beliefs. In the author’s opinion, this film can be treated as a model where the gnostic thought has been presented in a coherent and systematic manner.


The Binding Of Abraham: Inverting The Akedah In Fail-Safe And Wargames, Hunter B. Dukes Apr 2015

The Binding Of Abraham: Inverting The Akedah In Fail-Safe And Wargames, Hunter B. Dukes

Journal of Religion & Film

This article draws upon Søren Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling and Jacques Derrida's The Gift of Death to trace how two exemplars of atomic bomb cinema reinterpret the Binding of Isaac (Akedah). Released during the twin peaks of Cold War tension, Fail-Safe (1964) and WarGames (1983) invert the Akedah of Genesis 22. In both films, an act of sacrificial patricide accompanies or replaces the sacrifice of an Isaac-like son. When viewed in the context of Cold War cultural politics—events such as Norman Morrison’s Abrahamic self-immolation and Kent State’s rejection of George Segal’s sacrificial memorial— the ...


Plato's Watermelon: Art And Illusion In The Brothers Bloom, David L. Smith Mar 2014

Plato's Watermelon: Art And Illusion In The Brothers Bloom, David L. Smith

Journal of Religion & Film

Rian Johnson’s The Brothers Bloom is a sophisticated film about storytelling, pitting the idea that stories are an enhancement of life against the suspicion that stories are a deception. Set in a world of con artistry and illusion, it raises issues similar to those introduced in Plato’s allegory of the cave and in the critique of religion as illusion. Specifically, it follows one character’s desire for an “unwritten life”—a life free from artifice—through various logical and interpersonal challenges, and ends with a profound meditation on the coinherence of faith and skepticism.


Closing The Loop: "The Promise And Threat Of The Sacred" In Rian Johnson’S Looper, Brian W. Nail Mar 2014

Closing The Loop: "The Promise And Threat Of The Sacred" In Rian Johnson’S Looper, Brian W. Nail

Journal of Religion & Film

This article examines the ways in which Rian Johnson’s recent film Looper (2012) portrays the complex relationship between violence and the sacred in contemporary society through its exploration of the theme of retribution. Utilizing René Girard’s theory of sacrifice and Roberto Esposito’s explication of the immunitary logic of the sacred, this study argues that the film reveals the double nature of the sacred as a source of both life and death within society. Through an examination of crucial elements of Looper’s plot and setting, and in particular its enigmatic climax, I argue that as a religious ...


Inception And Ibn 'Arabi, Oludamini Ogunnaike Oct 2013

Inception And Ibn 'Arabi, Oludamini Ogunnaike

Journal of Religion & Film

Many philosophers, playwrights, artists, sages, and scholars throughout the ages have entertained and developed the concept of life being a "but a dream." Few works, however, have explored this topic with as much depth and subtlety as the 13thC Andalusian Muslim mystic, Ibn 'Arabi. Similarly, few works of art explore this theme as thoroughly and engagingly as Chistopher Nolan's 2010 film Inception. This paper presents the writings of Ibn 'Arabi and Nolan's film as a pair of mirrors, in which one can contemplate the other. As such, the present work is equally a commentary on the film based ...


Shinto And Buddhist Metaphors In Departures, Yoshiko Okuyama Apr 2013

Shinto And Buddhist Metaphors In Departures, Yoshiko Okuyama

Journal of Religion & Film

Cinematic language is rich in examples of religious metaphors. One Japanese film that contains religious “tropes” (figurative language) is the 2008 human drama, Departures. This paper focuses on the analysis of religious metaphors encoded in select film shots, using semiotics as the theoretical framework for film analysis. The specific metaphors discussed in the paper are the Shinto view of death as defilement and Buddhist practices associated with the metaphor of the journey to the afterlife. The purpose of this paper is to augment the previous reviews of Departures by explicating these religious signs hidden in the film.


The Problem Of Evil And Humans’ Relationship With God In Terrence Malick’S The Tree Of Life, Bertha Alvarez Manninen Ph.D. Apr 2013

The Problem Of Evil And Humans’ Relationship With God In Terrence Malick’S The Tree Of Life, Bertha Alvarez Manninen Ph.D.

Journal of Religion & Film

Terrence Malick’s 2011 film The Tree of Life defies any attempt to be summarized in a few pat sentences. The movie tackles significant theological issues as it tells the story of one man’s journey to regain his faith after the loss of his beloved brother and a difficult relationship with his father. At the same time, it is also a film about humankind’s relationship to God, and about the kind of life human beings should strive to lead. In this paper, I will discuss two of the film’s main themes: Malick’s response to the problem ...


Facing Forward, Looking Back: Religion And Film Studies In The Last Decade, Joseph Kickasola, John C. Lyden, S. Brent Plate, Antonio Sison, Sheila J. Nayar, Stefanie Knauss, Rachel Wagner, Jolyon Thomas Apr 2013

Facing Forward, Looking Back: Religion And Film Studies In The Last Decade, Joseph Kickasola, John C. Lyden, S. Brent Plate, Antonio Sison, Sheila J. Nayar, Stefanie Knauss, Rachel Wagner, Jolyon Thomas

Journal of Religion & Film

On November 17, 2012, at the American Academy of Religion’s National Meeting, the Religion, Film, and Visual Culture Group sponsored a session entitled, “Facing Forward, Looking Back: Religion and Film Studies in the Last Decade.” The session focused on four recent books in the field of Religion and Film: John Lyden’s Film as Religion: Myths, Morals and Rituals (NYU, 2003); S. Brent Plate’s Religion and Film: Cinema and the Re-Creation of the World (Wallflower Press, 2009); Antonio Sison’s World Cinema, Theology, and the Human: Humanity in Deep Focus (Routledge, 2012); and Sheila Nayar’s The Sacred ...


Il Futuro (The Future), Dereck Daschke Jan 2013

Il Futuro (The Future), Dereck Daschke

Journal of Religion & Film

This is a film review of Il Futuro (The Future) (2013) directed by Alicia Scherson.


Good Karma $1, Dereck Daschke Jan 2013

Good Karma $1, Dereck Daschke

Journal of Religion & Film

This is a film review of Good Karma $1 (2013) directed by Amy Laslett and Jason Berger.


Ironic Faith In Monty Python’S Life Of Brian, Steven A. Benko May 2012

Ironic Faith In Monty Python’S Life Of Brian, Steven A. Benko

Journal of Religion & Film

Monty Python’s Life of Brian tells the story of Brian, a contemporary of Jesus whose life becomes chaotic when he is mistaken for a messiah. Standard comedic devices are used to mock and ridicule those who use their authority or office to claim that they are more than human. In this case, laughter humbles those individuals and brings them back to the human community. Second, an ironic faith perspective allows the Pythons to assert that it is up to each individual to define the meaning of his/her own life. While some interpretations of ironic faith suggest the possibility ...


There’S No Place Like Home: From Oz To Antichrist, J. Sage Elwell May 2012

There’S No Place Like Home: From Oz To Antichrist, J. Sage Elwell

Journal of Religion & Film

This article explores the dialectic of the uncanny in The Wizard of Oz (Victor Flemming, 1939) and Antichrist (Lars von Trier, 2009), treating the latter as a sequel to the former such that we encounter Dorothy first as a young girl and then as a grown woman. I observe that the uncanny entails a repressive and expressive moment that is cinematically rendered in these two films, and drawing on Freud and Žižek, I argue that in Dorothy’s evolution from Oz to Antichrist we see that the witches and wizards and gods and devils of our own minds are known ...


Scapegoats And Redemption On Shutter Island, Cari Myers May 2012

Scapegoats And Redemption On Shutter Island, Cari Myers

Journal of Religion & Film

The themes of redemptive violence, scapegoating, and ritual in the films of Martin Scorsese have provided much grist for critical scholarship. While it is going too far to claim that Scorsese is intentionally interpreting Girardian themes (which are themselves borrowed from a rich mythological tradition), the comparisons between the theorist and the director are compelling. My goal here is to establish the primary themes of scapegoating, mimesis, the cycle of violence, and feuding identities that occur in both Girard’s works and Scorsese’s films and pull them forward into a more recent work of Scorsese, Shutter Island.