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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle

Faith and Form on Screen

Film and Television Studies, University of Helsinki, P.O.Box 59, Helsinki 00014, Finland
Academic Editor: Joseph Kickasola
Religions 2016, 7(11), 130;
Received: 2 June 2016 / Revised: 18 October 2016 / Accepted: 25 October 2016 / Published: 18 November 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Film and Lived Theology)
PDF [1376 KB, uploaded 18 November 2016]


To understand any aspect of being-in-the-world in general or cinematic experience in particular, both reductionist and holistic approaches are needed. Psychological accounts can give us only functional explanations of human behaviour or responses to signifying artifacts such as art. To understand the significance of these experiences the psychological must be complemented by a study on a level which may be termed spiritual. This line of thought is applied to analyses of Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket, starting from David Bordwell’s formalist and cognitive account of why many people experience this film as religious despite there being no explicit reference to religion. Paul Schrader’s analysis of the formal structure of this film in terms of his notion of transcendental style in film goes a step forward by explaining how the formal structure as he analyses it suggests a transcendental dimension which cannot be addressed directly. This approach connects in an illuminating way with Slavoj Žižek’s notions of the imaginary and the symbolic sphere. Bordwell’s approach, functioning on the psychological level, is basically reductionist, while Schrader’s, boosted with Žižek’s ideas as appropriated for the purposes of this article, is holistic and operative on the spiritual level. This two-tiered analysis reveals how cinematic form in Pickpocket serves as an indirect expression of faith. View Full-Text
Keywords: faith; film form; film style; transcendental style; pickpocket; Robert Bresson; David Bordwell; Paul Schrader; Slavoj Žižek faith; film form; film style; transcendental style; pickpocket; Robert Bresson; David Bordwell; Paul Schrader; Slavoj Žižek

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Bacon, H. Faith and Form on Screen. Religions 2016, 7, 130.

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