Saturday, January 31, 2009

Current Reading

Cultural Vigilance

The wide world is all about you; you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out.” —J.R.R. Tolkien

Friday, January 30, 2009

Approaching Film With Understanding

The 4th Annual King's Meadow Film and Worldview Conference is February 20-21, 2009 in Franklin, TN. For more info, click here.

The medium of film is a complex, multi-layered, many dimensional art form that encompasses numerous levels of communication. Too often Christian film reviews focus solely on the plot, trying to show how the storyline agrees or disagrees with Scripture. To be sure, the worldview of the narrative matters, but how that worldview is expressed specifically through the medium of film also matters—and it matters greatly. A good filmmaker can tell the audience more through non-verbal expression than the actual dialogue can. For instance, to understand what the director is saying through his craft, we need to understand some basic elements of his tools—lighting, framing, camera angles, color, sound, symbolism, etc. Hence, the story is but one layer of the total expression. How a filmmaker tells his story embodies just as many worldview assumptions and applications as the words and ideas in the script.

For example, a gifted filmmaker can take a script that is antagonistic to Biblical morals but present it in a beautiful and winsome way that convinces the audience of the merit of the film despite the fact that it is in direct contradiction to what they say they believe.

Likewise, a director can make technical choices (such as quick edits and shaky cameras in certain circumstances) that use the medium of film in such a way that affects the audience’s ability to process visual versus written information.

Or, consider that a movie with a life-affirming message rooted in Biblical values might actually contradict its intended message through sloppy or artless production values or through techniques rooted in non-biblical worldviews. Such a lack of artistry can (will?) actually fight against the objective of the film in the first place.

When evaluating, thinking, and discussing film, we can begin with the narrative, but we also must consider how and in what manner the film presents that story. A skilled director leads the audience—often subconsciously—towards a certain reaction to a character. As the characters are thus presented, the story itself gains levels of meaning and symbolism well beyond the actual words spoken or the literal actions. In this way, the emotions a film generates will often color an objective evaluation of its content.

Film is a wonderful art and a specific art that tells a story in a unique way. The true test of film artistry lies in the craft of the filmmaker to transform a narrative into something different than what a play or book portrays. In other words, the beauty of a good film is a film that understands how to be a film in the way it tells its story.

Creed and Education

Dogma is actually the only thing that cannot be separated from education. It IS education. A teacher who is not dogmatic is simply a teacher who is not teaching. There are no uneducated people; only most people are educated wrong. The true task of culture today is not a task of expansion, but of selection-and rejection. The educationist must find a creed and teach it.
--G.K. Chesterton

The Purpose of Life

“...the chief purpose of life, for any one of us, is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis: ...We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendour.” —J.R.R. Tolkien

(Thanks to Kay for this quote)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Quote on Song and Silence

We are living in a culture that doesn’t value melody; one that seems to have lost touch with this primal means of expression. We are surrounded by sounds so insistent, so varied in intent and clangor, that we’ve forgotten how to listen to a single line. In fact, we don’t really listen to each other speak anymore because there are too many distractions luring us away from the unadorned human voice. We’ve lost the basic, easy connection between speech and song that makes speech musical and song communicative. We’re perilously close to losing silence: in the electronic world, silence means disconnection…

Through the media’s constant barrage, we are subjected to endless chatter, listening to tune written in an unceasing quest for momentary fame and ingesting surface information that rarely delves below the surface. We are being deprived, through overload, or our principal senses.

—Alice Parker, The Anatomy of Melody

Thursday, January 8, 2009

O'Connor Quote

"I have found that anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the Northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic."

Flannery O'Connor, "Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction"

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

Today is the day in which the circumcision of Christ is usually remembered. Following is a hymn to that effect. It is also a good day to read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight since this Feast Day plays a role in the story.

O happy day, when first was poured
The blood of our redeeming Lord!
O happy day, when first began
His sufferings for sinful man!

Just entered on this world of woe,
His blood already learned to flow;
His future death was thus expressed,
And thus His early love confessed.

From heaven descending to fulfill
The mandates of His Father’s will,
E’en now behold the victim lie,
The Lamb of God, prepared to die!

Lord, circumcise our hearts, we pray,
Our fleshly natures purge away;
Thy Name, Thy likeness may they bear:
Yea, stamp Thy holy image there!

O Lord, the virgin born, to Thee
Eternal praise and glory be,
Whom with the Father we adore,
And Holy Ghost forevermore.

Se­bas­tien Bes­nault, 1736