S. Brent PlateReligion and Film: Cinema and the Re-Creation of the World

Wallflower Press, 2008

by Kristian Petersen on November 5, 2012

S. Brent Plate

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As each frame of a film goes by we witness a new world that is situated in space and time. This process of worldmaking happens through the cinematic lens but also through the myths and rituals of religious traditions. Or so argues S. Brent Plate, Visiting Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Hamilton College, in his book Religion and Film: Cinema and the Re-Creation of the World (Wallflower Press, 2008). In this short work Plate sets out to create a “critical religious film theory” and demonstrates how understanding religion and film can help us comprehend the other in more nuanced ways. Through a close examination of mise-en-scène, editing, and cinematics we discover the interrelationship of the world we live and the one on the screen. Plate reveals that film serves many of the same functions myth and ritual do in defining space and time. Both Hollywood blockbusters and avante-garde films present a way of understanding the world and reveal a new visual ethics for understanding reality. Plate also tells us what happens when film leaves the movie theatre and re-ritualizes contemporary experience. In our conversation we discuss film techniques, Star Wars, Blue Velvet, The Matrix, Chocolat, Rocky Horror Picture Show, sensual aspects of religion, the altar and the screen, ethics, aesthetics, myth, ritual, and Plates role in developing new features in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion.

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