Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Learning and Teaching How to Watch Movies Worldviewishly

Prompted by an inquiry from a friend, Jeff at The Dawn Treader has posted a helpful list of recommendations and resources for parents wishing to instill the ability to think "worldviewishly" about films in their children and teens. In addition to the fine books he mentions, I'd add another title - Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom & Discernment by Brian Godawa.

Though it doesn't target parents specifically, this book would certainly benefit any adult wanting to engage young people in intelligent, faith-informed conversation about movies and their meanings. Godawa is an experienced screenwriter who combines his inside knowledge of the industry with his knowledge of Christian theology, philosophy, and apologetics resulting in an informative guide that not only helps readers learn how to think Christianly about films but also to understand a film's underlying structure (e.g., theme, hero, hero's goal, the adversary, character flaw, final confrontation, resolution). Godawa posits that the essence of storytelling in movies is about redemption.

A movie takes a hero with an inner flaw, who desires something and has a plan to get it. But he is blocked by an adversary until he almost fails but finally finds a solution. This process of goal, flaw, failure, and self-revelation is the process of paradigm change or conversion in an individual.
Movies, therefore, offer diagnoses about what ails us as well as prescriptions for setting it right. They are, in that respect, "incarnate sermons." Cinematic storytellers are, says Godawa,
...engaging in their craft with an intent to communicate their view of the world and we ought to live in it. They have discovered the power of a well-told story combined with a well-thought-out philosophy that is creatively embodied in the story through character, plot and image. In the same way that worldviews involve a network of individual ideas that are interconnected to serve a greater philosophical interpretation of our experience, so movies are a network of events, images and themes that serve a unified way of interpreting our experience through the effective means of drama.
In an early chapter on the nature of stories and mythology, Godawa claims that Christianity alone provides justification for as well as makes sense of storytelling. "...the biblical notion of linear history, with an author, characters and a purposeful goal, was the philosophical foundation for the search for meaning in a narrative of life. Storytelling is meaningless gibberish unless reality itself is narratable."

The book is divided into three parts. The first, consisting of two chapters, "Stories & Mythology" and "Redemption," is called Storytelling in the Movies. Part Two is called Worldviews in the Movies and includes chapters on existentialism, postmodernism, and other worldviews. In each case, Godawa offers ample illustrations from well-known films. Part Three is called "Spirituality in the Movies" with chapters on "Christianity," "Angels & Demons, Heaven & Hell," and "Faith." Each chapter concludes with discussion questions and sidebars refer readers to related web resources (most often Godawa's site) and books (including James Sire's The Universe Next Door, which Jeff highly recommends in his post). An appendix deals with the issues of sex, violence, and profanity in the Bible and asks whether there is ever any Christian justification for the dramatic portrayal of evil.

I seriously doubt this one will be turned into a movie so don't wait for it. Read the book!

Related posts:
A Call for Artist-Apostles: More on Faith and Film
Using Films to Rattle Cages: Movies and Apologetics

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