What Are the Connections between Film and Theology?

G. Wiesen

The connection between film and theology is often one of criticism, as movies are reviewed and considered from a theological perspective. This may take a number of different forms, and commonly includes reviews of movies from the viewpoint of a particular religion and how people of that faith might receive the film. Other times, this type of criticism may be intended as a way in which various concepts and beliefs within a particular religion are explored or reinforced in a movie. There are also times in which film and theology are connected in the other direction, as some movies have been used as a delivery for criticism of various religious ideas or beliefs.

People filming a movie.
People filming a movie.

While film and theology are not innately connected to each other, there are many different ways in which connections have been made between them. One of the most common ways in which film and theology are utilized together is in reviews of films that are made from the perspective of a particular religion. These reviews are often written for movies that do not inherently have anything to do with a particular religion or belief system. The events or themes of the film, however, are reviewed and considered from a religious perspective to give followers a sense of what to expect.

The works of Joseph Campbell inspired George Lucas to model the town of Mos Eisley, where Luke Skywalker meets Han Solo in the first Star Wars movie, after towns from the bible and the American Old West.
The works of Joseph Campbell inspired George Lucas to model the town of Mos Eisley, where Luke Skywalker meets Han Solo in the first Star Wars movie, after towns from the bible and the American Old West.

There are also those who consider film and theology together to see ways in which various movies may be viewed as reflective of different religious ideas or beliefs. The images and ideas behind Christ in Christianity, for example, are often considered in different films that may have themes of self-sacrifice or death and rebirth. These movies may purposefully include religious overtones, or simply deal with certain subjects that are commonly related to different religious ideas. Even films like Star Wars have been considered from a religious and philosophical perspective, with connections being drawn between the ideas in these films and Buddhist practices and Judeo-Christian stories.

The connection between film and theology can also allow for movies to be used as a critical medium to analyze religion. A number of films have been made that serve to criticize various religious practices or ideas, often drawing a great deal of controversy and outcry from religious figures. These movies may be seen as offensive, but often serve an authentic artistic purpose as they question the beliefs and motivations of humanity. Those movies created purely out of a desire to offend, however, do not necessarily have artistic merit, and criticism of the film should consider the motivation behind any film that purposefully insults people.

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