Religion and Film

Cinema and the Re-Creation of the World

S. Brent Plate

Columbia University Press

Religion and Film

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Pub Date: March 2009

ISBN: 9781905674695

144 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $22.00£19.00

Religion and Film

Cinema and the Re-Creation of the World

S. Brent Plate

Columbia University Press

Religions and films both operate by recreating the known world and then presenting that alternative version to their viewers/worshippers. This book brings together religious studies and film studies, asking how the world on film affects religious attitudes, and how millennia-old myths and rituals alter the ways films are made, viewed and interpreted.

Spiritual questions are still anathema to most film theorists. On the other hand, most religious scholars who dabble in cinema have treated it illustratively and shown a blunt insensitivity to the specifics of film form. This book is truly exemplary in the cogent and creative way it builds a bridge between these two alienated intellectual worlds. The author's unfailingly perceptive mise-en-scène analysis discovers the visual mythologizing at work in an eclectic filmography ranging from George Lucas to Dziga Vertov and Stan Brakhage. At the same time, he remains critically aware of politics and ideology, attempting a more inclusive definition of religion that goes beyond the dogmatic and the doctrinal. A wonderfully syncretic study that offers an amazing bricolage of ideas.

Peter Matthews, University of the Arts London

A truly compelling comparative study. The analogues between filmic and religious 'worldmaking' are richly illuminating, bringing the reader to fresh insights about the structure and dynamics of both mediums. Setting aside the customary approach of simply analyzing religious themes in movies, the volume compares mythic and ritual ways of constructing a world with cinematic processes such as framing and focus, editorial selection, lighting, camera angle, voice, use of time and space and iconicity - doing so with lucidity, ingenuity and masterful use of a repertoire of interpretive frameworks.

William Paden, University of Vermont

Few other scholars have bridged so well the possible interfaces between religious studies and material-culture studies. The physical is not simply the opposite of the spiritual. And the "religious film" looks less interesting thanks to Plate's analysis of the religious aspects of the culture of filmmaking and its reception. His reach is compendious but not sprawling. It betrays a very disciplined and well theorized interdisciplinarity along with his usual remarkable insights and critiques.

William G. Doty, University of Alabama

[An] excellent little volume.

Journal of Religion
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About the Author

S. Brent Plate is visiting associate professor of religious studies at Hamilton College (Clinton, NY). His previous publications include Blasphemy: Art that Offends (2006) and The Religion and Film Reader (2007). He is managing editor of Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art, and Belief.