Special Issue "Film and Lived Theology"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (4 January 2016)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Joseph Kickasola

Department of Film and Digital Media, Baylor University, Waco, Texas 76798, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: film theory; media and culture; religion and film; film production

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This special issue of Religions will focus upon overlapping areas of cinema and Judeo-Christian theology in their “lived” or “experiential” dimensions. Both theology and cinema studies have shown recent interest in these lived, experiential aspects, as seen in William Dyrness’s Poetic Theology: God and the Poetics of Everyday Life, Paul Gavrilyuk and Sarah Coakley’s The Spiritual Senses: Perceiving God in Western Christianity, the rise of neo-phenomenological film theory (e.g., Vivian Sobchack, Jennifer Barker), as well as a renewed “embodied” emphasis in the humanities and cognitive film theory.

Rather than a focus on issues of religious representation in film—where and how religious people are exemplified, or religious events are depicted—these essays will outline and detail how film can give us an experience that is theologically loaded and significant. In other words, theological ideas can and will be present, but the emphasis here is on how these ideas are known through living, sensing, and feeling. In this light, the cinema functions more in the mode of sacrament and ritual than dogma, creed, or sermon illustration.

Prof. Dr. Joseph Kickasola
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

References:
Barker, Jennifer. The Tactile Eye: Touch and the Cinematic Experience, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.
Dyrness, William. Poetic Theology: God and the Poetics of Everyday Life. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman’s, 2010.
Gavrilyuk, Paul and Sarah Coakley. The Spiritual Senses: Perceiving God in Western Christianity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014
Marks, Laura U. The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment and the Senses. Durham: Duke University Press, 2000.
Plate, S. Brent. Religion and Film: Cinema and the Re-Creation of the World. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.
Sobchack, Vivian. Carnal Thoughts: Embodiment and Moving Image Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

Keywords

  • embodiment
  • sacrament
  • ritual
  • transcendence
  • cinema
  • film studies
  • film theory
  • phenomenology

Published Papers (13 papers)

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Research

Open AccessFeature PaperArticle “Nothing Sacred”: Violence, Time and Meaning in the Cinema of Possibilities
Religions 2017, 8(12), 275; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8120275
Received: 2 November 2017 / Revised: 15 December 2017 / Accepted: 15 December 2017 / Published: 19 December 2017
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Abstract
Hemingway’s disenchantment with the idea of the sacred as expressed in A Farewell to Arms became a defining aspect of the modern experience including in some Hollywood films such as Nothing Sacred and Twentieth Century. An attempt for a return to the sacred [...] Read more.
Hemingway’s disenchantment with the idea of the sacred as expressed in A Farewell to Arms became a defining aspect of the modern experience including in some Hollywood films such as Nothing Sacred and Twentieth Century. An attempt for a return to the sacred can be found in the philosophies of such figures as Levinas and Kristeva, among others. Cinema can help in this movement to a return to the sacred through film’s ability to manipulate time. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Film and Lived Theology)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Late Bergman: The Lived Experience of the Absence of God in Faithless and Saraband
Religions 2016, 7(12), 147; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7120147
Received: 2 June 2016 / Revised: 27 September 2016 / Accepted: 2 December 2016 / Published: 15 December 2016
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Abstract
Acclaimed as one of the great filmmakers of the 20th century, Ingmar Bergman is for many an arch-modernist, whose work is characterized by a high degree of self-conscious artistry and by dark, even nihilistic themes. Film critics increasingly identify him as a kind [...] Read more.
Acclaimed as one of the great filmmakers of the 20th century, Ingmar Bergman is for many an arch-modernist, whose work is characterized by a high degree of self-conscious artistry and by dark, even nihilistic themes. Film critics increasingly identify him as a kind of philosopher of the human condition, especially of the dislocations and misery of the modern human condition. However, Bergman’s films are not embodiments of philosophical theories, nor do they include explicit discussions of theory. Instead, he attends to the concrete lived experience of those who, on the one hand, suffer from doubt, dislocation, and self-hatred and, on the other, long for confession and communion. In the middle of his career, especially in his famous faith trilogy of the early 1960s, Bergman investigated the lived experience of the absence of God. It is commonly thought that after this period, the question of God disappeared. However, in his last two films, Faithless and Saraband, Bergman explores the lived experience of the absence of God. Indeed, he moves beyond a simple negation to explore the complex interplay of absence. He even illustrates the possibility of a kind of communion for which so many of his characters—early, middle and late—long. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Film and Lived Theology)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Losing Touch: A Theology of Death for Michael Haneke’s Amour
Religions 2016, 7(12), 140; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7120140
Received: 26 July 2016 / Revised: 7 November 2016 / Accepted: 16 November 2016 / Published: 30 November 2016
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Abstract
This proposed theology of death for Michael Haneke’s Amour, a fraught but poignant piece of cinema, will employ Martin Heidegger’s existentialism to reframe the ethical structure of the film and apply a “lived theology” rejoinder to its perceived hopelessness. The proposal will [...] Read more.
This proposed theology of death for Michael Haneke’s Amour, a fraught but poignant piece of cinema, will employ Martin Heidegger’s existentialism to reframe the ethical structure of the film and apply a “lived theology” rejoinder to its perceived hopelessness. The proposal will address the question of ethics in relation to Haneke’s cinema, in particular his seemingly nihilistic perspective and confrontational style. To do so, it will revisit the film itself and examine the ways that Georges and Anne’s love is tested. Principally, we examine the film’s great question, which—in the filmmaker’s own words—is: “How do I cope with the suffering of a loved one?” With aid from the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, this ‘lived theology’ proposal will attempt to give an account of love’s irrepressible strength in the midst of even astounding suffering. While Heidegger’s ethic of resoluteness calls for interiority and solitude, Bonhoeffer’s account of death more satisfactorily invokes a transcendent summons contained within our own pledges to loved ones. Such a theological reading of Haneke’s Amour will draw two distinct conclusions: first, the film exposes the superficiality of any hoped-for solitude or escape from a loved one’s death, and secondly, it demonstrates that the mutuality of authentic love entails impossible sacrifices. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Film and Lived Theology)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Faith and Form on Screen
Religions 2016, 7(11), 130; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7110130
Received: 2 June 2016 / Revised: 18 October 2016 / Accepted: 25 October 2016 / Published: 18 November 2016
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Abstract
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 [...] Read more.
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. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Film and Lived Theology)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Screening Belief: The Life of Pi, Computer Generated Imagery, and Religious Imagination
Religions 2016, 7(8), 96; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7080096
Received: 18 March 2016 / Revised: 20 July 2016 / Accepted: 21 July 2016 / Published: 26 July 2016
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Abstract
Ang Lee’s The Life of Pi is based on Yann Martel’s novel of the same name. The film expands upon the novel’s fantastic story through the integration of new visual metaphors that invite religious reflection, and is reinforced by religious rituals within and [...] Read more.
Ang Lee’s The Life of Pi is based on Yann Martel’s novel of the same name. The film expands upon the novel’s fantastic story through the integration of new visual metaphors that invite religious reflection, and is reinforced by religious rituals within and beyond the film itself. Martel’s novel invites readers to believe Pi’s story without seeing it. Viewers of the film, by contrast, are invited to believe Pi’s story precisely because they are seeing it so vividly. Ang Lee constructs a filmic world using such elaborately developed CGI (computer-generated imagery) that the film exhibits only a vestigial relationship to the real-life animals and locations used in its creation. Indeed, it is impossible to make sense of the film’s extensive use of religious themes and rituals without understanding its use of immersive visual effects. For Ang Lee, the manufacture of a seamless, aesthetically appealing CGI world was a means of visually affirming the broadly conceived notions of interconnectedness and purpose that he borrowed from Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Jewish mysticism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Film and Lived Theology)
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Open AccessArticle Sensing and Longing for God in Andrey Zvyagintsev’s The Return and Leviathan
Religions 2016, 7(7), 82; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7070082
Received: 22 March 2016 / Revised: 13 June 2016 / Accepted: 16 June 2016 / Published: 25 June 2016
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Abstract
This article explores apophatic ways of presenting God (the Other) in two films of Andrey Zvyagintsev. The lens for this analysis is the phenomenological theology of John Panteleimon Manoussakis, using the following concepts: (1) God as personal Other; (2) the relational nature of [...] Read more.
This article explores apophatic ways of presenting God (the Other) in two films of Andrey Zvyagintsev. The lens for this analysis is the phenomenological theology of John Panteleimon Manoussakis, using the following concepts: (1) God as personal Other; (2) the relational nature of God’s self-disclosure through prosopon; (3) God as revealed in space/sight; (4) God as revealed in hearing/time; and (5) God as revealed in touch/self-understanding. This analysis, pursued through close examination of Zvyagintsev’s The Return (2003) and Leviathan (2014), demonstrates the relevance of Manoussakis’s theology to the study of religion and film, particularly in its sensual and experiential themes and emphases. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Film and Lived Theology)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle “What Is This Love That Loves Us?”: Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder as a Phenomenology of Love
Religions 2016, 7(6), 76; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7060076
Received: 31 March 2016 / Revised: 8 June 2016 / Accepted: 8 June 2016 / Published: 20 June 2016
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Abstract
Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder (2013) considers the relationship of Divine Love with the individual soul, and its corresponding relationships to the other as neighbor. In this article, I analyze the congruency of Malick’s form and content by correlating the relationship of his [...] Read more.
Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder (2013) considers the relationship of Divine Love with the individual soul, and its corresponding relationships to the other as neighbor. In this article, I analyze the congruency of Malick’s form and content by correlating the relationship of his dynamic, existential filmmaking style with the film’s phenomenologically constructed plotline. Jean-Luc Marion’s phenomenology of givenness and Søren Kierkegaard’s Works of Love contribute to my analysis, aiding our understanding of love’s sheer gratuity and sacrificial labor, amid inevitable idolatry and despondency, in To the Wonder’s intersecting narratives. While Marion helps us comprehend the affective qualities of “saturated phenomena” in the film’s formal dimensions, Kierkegaard elucidates the film’s many iterations of love. Malick aesthetically demonstrates the reciprocity of love and the experience of wonder as contingent operations, making To the Wonder a cinematic phenomenology of the fractured yet indissoluble dimensions of love. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Film and Lived Theology)
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Finding God in Pawlikowski’s Ida
Religions 2016, 7(6), 72; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7060072
Received: 26 March 2016 / Revised: 24 May 2016 / Accepted: 1 June 2016 / Published: 8 June 2016
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Abstract
Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida (2014) tells the story of a nun who must learn to resituate her faith in light of new experiences and information. Through Ida’s encounters, Pawlikowski suggests that God may be encountered in unexpected places. This theological meditation is done primarily [...] Read more.
Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida (2014) tells the story of a nun who must learn to resituate her faith in light of new experiences and information. Through Ida’s encounters, Pawlikowski suggests that God may be encountered in unexpected places. This theological meditation is done primarily through the elements of the film’s color, framing, costuming, music, art direction, and character interactions, all of which work together to demonstrate Pawlikowski’s thesis. By exploring this topic on film, Pawlikowski not only expresses his thoughts on where to seek God, but invites others to join him in his search. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Film and Lived Theology)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle “Present Your Bodies”: Film Style and Unknowability in Jessica Hausner’s Lourdes and Dietrich Brüggemann’s Stations of the Cross
Religions 2016, 7(6), 63; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7060063
Received: 2 March 2016 / Revised: 20 April 2016 / Accepted: 18 May 2016 / Published: 27 May 2016
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Abstract
Since 2005, a number of European films have emerged examining the legacy of Christianity in Western Europe, and the ways in which men, women and children struggle to negotiate questions of religion and secularity, the personal and the institutional, faith and doubt. This [...] Read more.
Since 2005, a number of European films have emerged examining the legacy of Christianity in Western Europe, and the ways in which men, women and children struggle to negotiate questions of religion and secularity, the personal and the institutional, faith and doubt. This article looks at two of these films—Jessica Hausner’s Lourdes (2009) and Dietrich Brüggemann’s Stations of the Cross (2014)—in relation to questions of religious experience, the female body and film style. In both films the battle between these opposing categories is played out on the bodies of women—a paraplegic MS sufferer in Lourdes, an anorexic teen in Stations of the Cross—and both the films end ambiguously with what may, or may not, be a miracle of sorts: a confirmation of faith or a rebuttal. I wish to connect this ambiguity to the use of a very distinctive mise-en-scene in both films, which relies on a heavily restricted colour palate; highly formalised, painterly-compositions; and crucially what David Bordwell has termed “planimetric photography”: a shooting style that eschews depth or diagonals, refusing the spectator entrance into the image and holding her instead at a deliberate distance. My argument, in short, is that these stylistic choices—while gesturing towards a tradition of Christian art—also refuse the spectator either visual or haptic knowledge of the events that the characters undergo. Rather, they are suggestive of the fundamental unknowability that characterises religious experience, leaving us alone, outside of the action, forced to negotiate ourselves between belief and doubt. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Film and Lived Theology)
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Open AccessArticle The Dardenne Brothers and the Invisible Ethical Drama: Faith without Faith
Religions 2016, 7(5), 43; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7050043
Received: 2 March 2016 / Revised: 9 April 2016 / Accepted: 15 April 2016 / Published: 26 April 2016
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Abstract
The cinema of the Dardenne brothers represents a new kind of cinema, one that challenges a number of our conventional ways of thinking about the distinction between religion and secularism, belief and unbelief. Their films explore the intricacies of spiritual and ethical transformations [...] Read more.
The cinema of the Dardenne brothers represents a new kind of cinema, one that challenges a number of our conventional ways of thinking about the distinction between religion and secularism, belief and unbelief. Their films explore the intricacies of spiritual and ethical transformations as they are experienced within embodied, material life. These features of their cinema will be examined primarily through the lens of Emmanuel Levinas’s philosophy of the imbrication of the drama of existence and the ethical intrigue of self and Other. The work of the Dardenne brothers can be understood as an attempt to express what I describe as a “faith without faith”—a recognition of the absolute centrality of belief for the development of a responsible subject but in the absence of a traditional faith in a personal deity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Film and Lived Theology)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Syncopated Beats and the History of Sadness: The Affective Fusion of Audience and Film through Music
Religions 2016, 7(4), 36; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7040036
Received: 19 January 2016 / Revised: 8 March 2016 / Accepted: 23 March 2016 / Published: 25 March 2016
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Abstract
Recent developments in the disciplines of cinema studies, theology, and religion and film have generated renewed interest in the experiential dimensions of filmgoing. More specifically, those contributing to theological scholarship have begun to explore these cinematic experiences as theologically significant. With these developments [...] Read more.
Recent developments in the disciplines of cinema studies, theology, and religion and film have generated renewed interest in the experiential dimensions of filmgoing. More specifically, those contributing to theological scholarship have begun to explore these cinematic experiences as theologically significant. With these developments in mind, this essay offers a close reading of the principal musical theme in the 2010 film Beginners, noting in particular the ways in which this music is distributed throughout the narrative. In doing so, it suggests that the music in this film expresses in concrete terms one of the key insights from emerging neuropsychological research, namely, that our affective, pre-cognitive, “wordless knowledge” of the world is the foundation upon which human consciousness is constructed. But the essay goes one step further by making an explicitly theological claim. That is, when located within the framework of a lived theology (i.e., a “poetic theology”), the film and its music shed light on the ways in which aesthetic modes of awareness (i.e., intuitive, embodied forms of knowledge) open up spaces in the contemporary world where our affections, the goods of late-modern society, and our spiritual longings are able to meet and interact. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Film and Lived Theology)
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Holy Dung: Comic Signs of Consubstantiality in Martin Luther Films
Religions 2016, 7(3), 20; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7030020
Received: 26 October 2015 / Revised: 2 February 2016 / Accepted: 14 February 2016 / Published: 26 February 2016
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Abstract
One problem with the religious sub-genre of Hagiographic films is that they frequently romanticize, sentimentalize, or idealize the lives of saints. Our purpose is to excavate three major film biopics on the life of Protestant reformer Martin Luther and demonstrate where the use [...] Read more.
One problem with the religious sub-genre of Hagiographic films is that they frequently romanticize, sentimentalize, or idealize the lives of saints. Our purpose is to excavate three major film biopics on the life of Protestant reformer Martin Luther and demonstrate where the use of excremental humor humanizes him. Such coarse embodied humor invites a consubstantial identity of a holy man with his secular audience. Where laughter is present, saints are not elevated to being “more spiritual than God.” The use of excremental humor gives weight, or the gravity of earth, to the transcendent, bringing the holy down into the everyday. We argue that it is the comedy in the life of Luther that makes him more authentic, showing how film can communicate the presence of God in earthen vessels. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Film and Lived Theology)
Open AccessArticle Sensing Religion in Alfonso Cuarón’s “Children of Men”
Religions 2015, 6(4), 1433-1456; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel6041433
Received: 26 September 2015 / Revised: 30 November 2015 / Accepted: 7 December 2015 / Published: 19 December 2015
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Abstract
This essay attends closely to the affective excess of Children of Men, arguing that this excess generates two modalities of religion—nostalgic and emergent—primarily through a sensitive use of color and music. These affective religious modalities are justly termed “religion” not only because they [...] Read more.
This essay attends closely to the affective excess of Children of Men, arguing that this excess generates two modalities of religion—nostalgic and emergent—primarily through a sensitive use of color and music. These affective religious modalities are justly termed “religion” not only because they are sutured to overtly Christian names, images, and thematics, but also because they signal the sacred and transcendence, respectively. The essay reads the protagonist, Theo Faron (Clive Owen), as navigating these two modalities of religion, not as a hero but as what Giorgio Agamben terms “whatever-being.” Noting Theo’s religious function draws attention to transformations of political being and human hope. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Film and Lived Theology)
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