Films have come to not only entertain modern minds but also inform and shape them. Many of the best cinematic works have profound religious elements -- some obvious, some more subtle. In Catching Light
Roy Anker examines nineteen popular films, showing how they convey a range of striking perspectives on the human encounter with God.
These selected films portray God showing up in different, surprising ways amid the messy circumstances of life. Anker looks closely at the plot of each film, especially at how characters, through their experiences, ultimately move "toward Light," toward recognition of a loving, redemptive deity.
The first section of Catching Light
looks at classic 1970s films that inspect personal, social, and cultural evil: The Godfather
and The Deer Hunter.
The second group of films depicts the ways and depths of specifically Christian notions of redemption: Tender Mercies, The Mission, Places in the Heart,
and Babette's Feast.
Some of the most successful films of our time have come as fairy-tale fantasies: the Star Wars
and three of Steven Spielberg's "lost boy" stories (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,
and A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
), each of which Anker interprets as a fable of search and redemption. The films in the last section of the book feature characters who, to their great surprise, are ambushed by a wholly unexpected God: Grand Canyon, American Beauty,
and Three Colors: Blue.
In addition to focusing on the theological dimension of each film, Anker comments on its merits both as story and as cinema. Also included are sidebars that discuss each film's history and significance as well as the quality and special features of DVD editions. For anyone interested in the intersection of religion, art, and culture, Catching Light
offers a unique view of contemporary faith.
AWARDS and RECOGNITIONS
ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards, Finalist, Popular Culture (2004)
"It is high time that somebody drew attention to the religious dimension of some of our best films. Roy Anker has taken a close and discerning look at nineteen of them, and we all owe him a debt of gratitude."
"Through his close and sensitive readings of popular movies, Roy Anker shows us how the medium of film, using physical light to display images, can be a powerful vehicle for spiritual or divine light as well. His essays on nineteen well-known films remind us that when we sit in the darkened theater, we are not only watching movie characters in their encounters with forces beyond themselves, but we are also ourselves affected and potentially transformed. This fascinating, beautifully written, and moving book is a must-read for anyone interested in film and the light it sheds on the profound joys and strains of human existence."
Robert K. Johnston
"Catching Light sets a new critical benchmark for the unpacking of cinematic stories that invite further theological dialogue. This sensitive analysis of selected Academy Award?winning films should send readers running to their nearest DVD store to review these classics."
John R. May
"In an ever-expanding universe of fine works in the area of religion and film, Roy Anker's Catching Light is not only one of the most perceptive in its film critiques but also undoubtedly the best organized and most richly designed text for courses on spirituality and religious experience in film of any that I have read. Anker's central metaphor brilliantly links the source of film's art with the core of religious experience — divine Light itself. Reading Catching Light has permanently altered my plans for my own course syllabus, and I can't wait to use it as a text."
"On long summer evenings when time seems to stretch out invitingly, I like to imagine conversations that should have taken place (even if they never did in mundane reality), such as Andr? Bazin, Pauline Kael, and Roy Anker arguing over Superman. Ah, to have been there that night. . . The next best thing is to settle down with this book, in which Anker reminds us (if we ever knew) that movies are fundamentally metaphysical: their job is to show the Invisible. Let there be Light!"
"Anyone who loves movies and loves discussing them has got to pick up this book. . . Anker . . . puts together a fascinating read that takes a look at various films and the theology that surrounds the stories. "