A New Series: Faith and Film Friday
Has the screen taken over our culture? Perhaps we are not yet in a complete dystopian future in which every person’s reality is virtual, but with Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube making movies and shows so readily available, realities mediated by the screen are being proposed to our minds at every turn. Places as intimate as our homes, family rooms, and bedrooms receive philosophical and moral visions about the human person and the world from countless screenwriters every day. Do we critically discern which of these visions we allow to affect our imaginations? Do we view them critically from the perspective of our faith?
We must be wary of unthoughtful or even harmful entertainment that preys on the weaknesses every person has due to the Fall. Wounded by original sin, we are particularly vulnerable to sins of violence and lust. Thus, many shows are appealing—or, rather, tempting—because of their portrayal of violence and sex, often depicted glamorously and without mention of the long-term psychological, physical, and moral effects on those people involved (whether characters, actors, or viewers). When such shows or movies are consumed uncritically day after day, they begin to change the mind, forming it according to the reality of the Fall rather than that of the human situation open to grace.
On the other hand, there are certainly many phenomenal works of cinematic art, and these exemplify the great creativity of the human mind and a genuinely artistic engagement with the human situation. Such films ask penetrating questions and present characters that strike at the heart of what it means to be human. They create fantastical, comedic, and realistic stories to cast a new light on commonplace visions of the world. In a nutshell, true works of art lead the viewer into a deeper contemplation of reality and the implications of living life according to certain values. Many films help our contemplation of this horizontal reality—our common human situation—but as people of faith we should turn purposefully to the transcendent—to God and to reality in light of God.
Thus, in a way continuing our last series on contemplating beauty through art, Dominicana is pleased to present our newest series: Faith and Film Friday. Every Friday in February and March, we will present reviews of films that convey clear and compelling Catholic content worthy of contemplation. With these film suggestions and reviews, we hope to offer topics worthy of contemplation that will form the mind in likeness to Christ in the midst of the many distorted visions offered by today’s world of filmography. We hope to participate in a renewal of culture, raising the expectation for the quality of content that we take in from the screen. While watching these films, we can ask, how is grace operative in the lives of the characters? Which characters have rejected grace? Is redemption offered? Is faith a defining virtue in this person’s life? What difficulties arise even while striving to live in faith?
Saint Genesius will be our saintly intercessor as we propose these films for your weekend contemplation. Although little is known about St. Genesius, he has grown in popularity as the patron of actors. During the Diocletian persecutions at the turn of the fourth century, Genesius, a pagan at the time, thought that he could ingratiate himself with the emperor by performing a play that mocked Christianity. Choosing to enact his farce on the sacrament of baptism proved to be an act of providence, for during the baptism scene, Genesius was struck by the grace of God and became convicted of his sin. Professing his faith in Jesus Christ while still on stage, Genesius was quickly led off stage to be tortured and killed.
The unique conversion of St. Genesius teaches a lesson about film. Those films that simply portray sin in any of its guises convey nothing but a life emptied of all meaning—a crude form of entertainment. Those films, however, that recognize the reality of sin and the complexities of human life but also allow the light of grace to penetrate allow for the purification of the viewer’s mind by the grace of faith. The gift of faith presented in truly Catholic film can heighten our contemplation of the mysteries of grace. This, in turn, heals our minds, which seek the truth about our human reality, a reality ultimately founded on God.
We will begin tomorrow by reviewing the film Calvary.
Photo by Rabanus Flavus (CC0 1.0)