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Abstract

Is cinema evil, or sacramental? Can films make theological contributions? Can film-viewing be a religious practice? How do films, values and power interact? The study of film and religion engages a range of diverse questions through different approaches and methods. In this contribution, I distinguish three complementary approaches. In the first section, I discuss those that focus on the film as text, the representation of religion in film, and how theology happens in film. The next section will broaden this perspective by taking into consideration how films affect audiences, and how the relationship between film and audience might have religious dimensions or serve religious functions. In the third section, attention to the text and the audience are combined with the consideration of both film and religion as agents in cultural processes in order to think about how film and religion are shaped by and shape value systems and ideologies. In the last section I will begin to tackle the difficult question of theory and method. I consciously postpone this part until the end because, in many cases, methodologies and theoretical frameworks are implied in and emerge from concrete case studies rather than being consciously reflected upon. This final section has two goals: it will make explicit some of these underlying assumptions to serve as a starting point for a more sustained reflection on the theories and methodologies of the field, and it will highlight some of the pitfalls we encounter if we are not methodologically and theoretically precise in our work.

In: Religion and Film
In: Religion, the Supernatural and Visual Culture in Early Modern Europe
In: Religion, the Supernatural and Visual Culture in Early Modern Europe