What’s behind the film’s mask?
Questions. We learn to ask them almost as soon as we can speak. Questions are how we learn
There’s an entire learning style based on questions called the Socratic Method. The Greek philosopher Socrates maintained that, “Life without examination is not worth living,” and habitually used questions as a means of testing the validity of his friends’ and opponents’ beliefs. The right question often revealed the inconsistencies in their philosophies. The same can be said for the worldviews proposed by film and television productions.
One of the intrinsic problems is that big and small screen stories tend to naturally evade our questions. They are designed, at least on one level, to put your conscious thought processes to sleep.
So how do we stay aware enough to decide whether what we’re hearing is worth valuing? Be prepared to ask yourself some questions after you’ve finished watching a film or television program. Here are a few helpful ones I’ve collected over the years:
What about this film moves me?
Adrian Drayton is a Christian film critic who is a master at considering the real effects fiction can have. Adrian calls it ‘the phenomenological response’ – the laughter, the tears, the goose bumps. “Filmmaking technique can manipulate a message through intercutting, editing, attaching an evocative soundtrack,” he says. According to Adrian if we don’t consider what a film is asking us to feel strongly about, and whether we agree as Christians, we’re more likely to just passively consume culture rather than speak into it.
Does it express or advance my holiness?
Recently American pastor John Piper expressed his thoughts on Christians watching the MA15+ HBO series Game Of Thrones. “In the Bible, from beginning to end, there is a radical call for holiness – holiness of mind and heart and life. ‘As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.’” There’s more at stake than just understanding how much a production agrees with or contradicts the Bible. Has the production helped or harmed you spiritually? It can only do one or the other.
What does this production tell me about God – humanity – right and wrong?
Long before Greg Clarke became the CEO of Bible Society Australia he was a valued colleague for picking apart popular culture, thanks to questions like: What picture of the world is the production offering? One with God or without – and how is He presented? Is there anything in the film that needs correcting, or defending?
Is this a good film?
Ben McEachen is the former editor of movie mainstay Empire Magazine and one of the most published film reviewers in Australia. Among other things he wants to encourage Christian readers to remember the medium they’re watching. “Films should be assessed on their merits, as a film endeavour,” he says, noting there’s no point condemning a production because it doesn’t provide the detail a book like the Bible might. “Then, as a Christian, consider your reaction to the film’s subject matter, tone and implications in the light of your belief system.”
Are there bits of broken treasure?
Our Christian culture is often at odds with this world. But I need to remind myself that, as James 1:17, NIV puts it, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” Healthy father-son relationships? A strong desire for justice?
The Devil didn’t create any of these; everything worth celebrating is from God’s hand. Sin might obscure His masterpiece but I do my readers a favour by pointing out where the Creator’s handiwork shines through. By doing so I can slip under the guard of His creatures, who were designed to agree. And by pointing out where it comes from, I can challenge their worldview as well as prepare my Christian friends to tell the next generation about Jesus.