How Movies Helped Save My Soul: Finding Spiritual Fingerprints in Culturally Significant Films


Ever wonder why Star Wars ruined your childhood? How Jesus and Prozac are not the same thing? What relationship Martha Stewart has to the brass on the Titanic? What Brad Pitt and ice cream have in common? Why the best sermon I've ever heard was preached by Robert Duvall? How Marlon Brando could be both astonishing and terrible, sometimes in the same film? Why you'll never build a barn as quickly as the Amish, or teach as well as Robin Williams, or fly like Neo, but you still think it's worth trying? How the ...
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Ever wonder why Star Wars ruined your childhood? How Jesus and Prozac are not the same thing? What relationship Martha Stewart has to the brass on the Titanic? What Brad Pitt and ice cream have in common? Why the best sermon I've ever heard was preached by Robert Duvall? How Marlon Brando could be both astonishing and terrible, sometimes in the same film? Why you'll never build a barn as quickly as the Amish, or teach as well as Robin Williams, or fly like Neo, but you still think it's worth trying? How the Oscars are almost always given to the wrong films? Or why most films are pretty terrible? How Movies Helped Save My Soul will tell you.

It's a guidebook for the journey into film for postmodern pilgrims. Gareth Higgins not only shows us how to find manna from heaven on the multiplex screen, but provides a recipe for what to do with it (or at least shows us what he did with it). In chapters on anti-heroes, brokenness, conspiracy, death, community, fear, God, justice, love, outsiders, power, quest, and war, we learn how to make sense of our life by looking at it through a celluloid lens. Higgins takes us through more than 500 films that just might change our lives. From The Matrix to Magnolia, Fight Club to Field of Dreams, and The Wizard of Oz to Wings of Desire, the book travels to the ends of the cinema world and back again. Buffs and novices alike will find much to enjoy, provoke, amuse, challenge and confound in How Movies Helped Save My Soul.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This book, writes Tony Campolo in the foreword, "calls us to go to the movies to hear and see sermons." Higgins, an Irish Gen X-er, could be the textbook case of a postmodern young Christian, writing about movies in order to both explain his own idiosyncrasies and encourage others in the faith. In true post-modern fashion, Higgins insists that he is not providing a "right" interpretation of any of the films (well, except one or two), but offers the book as the opening shot in a volley-like dialogue. Seventeen chapters are arranged thematically around concepts like fear, justice, power, "anti-heroes" and war-popular po-mo topics. (And there's a last-but-not-least factor: The Matrix scores its own closing chapter.) The writing is sassy, confessional and just darn funny; while some readers may be put off by Higgins's tone of studied casualness, others will find his irreverence a welcome change. Also, the sheer breadth of the movies covered here is nothing short of amazing--it's rare for a Christian book to have Disney films jockeying for space next to Quentin Tarantino and Stanley Kubrick. Bravo. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780971457690
  • Publisher: Relevant Books
  • Publication date: 9/1/2003
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,469,795
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 8.84 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction xv
1. Dr. Higgins' Rosetta Stone 001
2. Anti-Heroes 011
3. Brokenness 031
4. Conspiracy 053
5. Death 067
6. Community 083
7. Fear 105
8. God 119
9. Justice 151
10. All You Need is Love 165
11. 1968-1975, America 181
12. Quest 185
13. Outsiders 201
14. Power 215
15. War 227
16. The Matrix 245
Conclusion 253
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2003

    This book had me at hello...

    With a keen understanding of cinematic art and a witty writing style, Higgins¿ book appeals to even the casual moviegoer. He has such a passion for cinema that it¿s hard to read this book without feeling compelled to run to the nearest Blockbuster and catch up on old films! As explained in the Foreword, this book gives the reader ¿a methodology for engaging movies.¿ Higgins does an excellent job of teaching the reader that simple things such as atmospheric elements and lighting actually represent something that the director is attempting to convey to the audience. Although he keeps the tone light and upbeat, Higgins covers weighty chapter topics such as brokenness, fear, death, war, justice, and God. Each chapter contains a ¿primer¿ in the topic at hand, in which he uses an array of characters chosen from various movies to help make his point. He closes each chapter with ¿The Wrap,¿ which gives him artistic license to state his thoughts on that topic as seen through the lens of movies that have helped shape his viewpoint. This was by far the most compelling portion of the book. By describing the characters in the movies and setting the scene, he builds anticipation and brings home his point for readers who might have missed that particular film. His love of film is not limited to the past five or ten years, as classic movies from the 60¿s and 70¿s are discussed at length throughout the book. If you are a Matrix fan and enjoy its symbolism, Higgins gives us the ¿Nine Commandments of the Matrix,¿ which attempts to discern the film¿s spiritual elements. This book surprised this reader with its depth and breadth of subject matter. Above all, it gives readers a new appreciation for film-going and the ability to watch movies with a renewed purpose and passion.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2003

    Not for the Passive Movie-Goer

    First, let me get a few gripes off my chest. Gareth Higgins has an interesting style, which was generally able to grab and keep my attention. Unfortunately, my anticipation for the meat of the subject may have been too high, as I sometimes found myself disappointed to be eating only side dishes. On several occasions his tendency to ramble on in a stream-of-consciousness fashion, often drifting way off topic, forced me to fight through this book instead of enjoying every moment of it. In addition, there were a number of grammar and typographical mistakes, which I found to be extremely distracting. That said, How Movies Helped Save My Soul: Finding Spiritual Fingerprints in Culturally Significant Films was an overall success, despite the occasional frustrations mentioned above. With chapters that dissected films addressing a multitude of themes including ¿war,¿ ¿love,¿ ¿fear,¿ ¿God¿ and ¿death,¿ How Movies Helped Save My Soul was an eye opening book, full of useful information. I especially enjoyed the ¿Primer¿ and ¿Wrap¿ sections that closed each chapter, often prompting readers to reconsider their current outlook on the topic with a controversial question or statement. Though this book could have been more effective from a less subjective standpoint, I found myself generally intrigued by Higgins¿ personal insight into a variety of big screen hits and not-so-well-known masterpieces, often wishing I had seen them more recently (or seen them at all). I would definitely recommend a movie marathon prior to delving into this book in order to refresh your memory on the films that Higgins addresses, or to catch up on those you haven¿t taken the time to see before. Believe me, it will be worth the money if you¿re truly interested in digging deeper into the spiritual side of film. How Movies Helped Save My Soul encourages readers to look at film in a fresh way, with a desire to learn from it and use it to teach others, rather than being the passive movie participant that so many of us choose to be. If nothing else, this book piqued my interest in films I would have never thought to see, and inspired a new approach to my own film watching. Knowing that this was Higgins¿ intent when he put pen to paper, I would have to say that How Movies Helped Save My Soul accomplished its goal.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2003

    Movies You Know and Love

    Not only is Gareth Higgins a simple story teller, but he is also an intellectual pastor-teacher. He has written an intelligent, witty, and thought provoking book that demonstrates both his love of film and love of his fellow man. Now, I realize that reading this review, one might feel that I am giving Higgins too much credit, for no one can be that good a writer. But maybe I just love movies as much as he, maybe I become nostalgic when I think back on the first time I saw Dead Poets or Superman for the first time, but maybe, just maybe, Higgins really is that profound with his ideas. His taste is superb and his treatment of each chapter topic is pastoral. So much so, that found I was learning more about myself than the movies he discussed. Some things to suggest: 1. Read the Preface! Tony Campolo is brilliant- or at least comes off that way. 2. Read Higgins introduction. He writes clear purpose statements. It is always nice to know why a writer puts pen to paper; the intro gives you that insight. 3. Read every, and I mean EVERY footnote. I mentioned that Higgins is witty; many of those moments are in the footnotes. 4. If he suggests a movie, go see it. I have not been disappointed yet. Overall, I give this book two thumbs up¿I apologize, but I couldn¿t resist. If you are even remotely interested in this book, read it. You will not be disappointed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2003

    Finding GOD at the movies....

    Lately I¿ve noticed I¿m annoyed with the movie industry and dread going to see a film, knowing that it will have a cheap Hollywood happy ending, signature stars in the same old roles, or a lack of serious moral content. After reading ¿How Movies Helped Save My Soul,¿ by Gareth Higgins, I was ready to head to the video store with a list a mile long. His book impressively covers several ¿spiritual¿ topics, with each chapter describing movies that embody those themes. His writing style is rather witty and very stream of consciousness, which makes it a fun, light read, but can get monotonous at times. The final chapter is dedicated to ¿The Matrix,¿ the only such chapter dedicated to an entire film. The most remarkable thing about the book is Higgins¿ vast knowledge of film, from every era in film history. Each chapter notes both vintage and recent films that have influenced his life from a different spiritual perspective. I was taken aback at how many of the films in which I had completely missed their spiritual themes, or had dismissed them before viewing because I didn¿t find them ¿morally acceptable.¿ His insight is remarkable, and his Christian background only complements, never hinders, how he describes the films. I was worried this book would bash the films that contained nudity, strong language, or violence, and praise the Disney genre filled with nice feel-good story lines. Instead, Higgins brings an objective view to the table, encouraging people to watch the films for the underlying message, no matter how hard it may be to watch. Such films he described that surprised me were Eyes Wide Shut, American Beauty, Fight Club, and Monster¿s Ball. (All of which I would guess most Christian pastors would recommend us not seeing.) This book brought to my senses all that is of this world that Christians discount, especially in pop culture. Higgins¿ book suggests that if they would just break out of their comfort zone and experience what is out there in film and elsewhere, they may be pleasantly surprised, and learn a bit about what God has to say in the meantime.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2003

    make movie-going more meaningful

    Reading How Movies Helped Save My Soul first made me realize that I need to see more movies, and that I would enjoy having meaningful discussions about such things as movies. Pure entertainment; the author would strongly disagree when talking about movies. In his book, Gareth Higgins helps to prepare your mind for an enlightening and possibly life-changing experience when seeing a movie. It is an insightful book that is meant to challenge Christians to really look at the significance of movies. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to challenge their intellect and stimulate their minds when seeing a movie. The author likes to have a ten minute block of silence once a movie is over with to allow the movie to process in his head. I think that is a good idea, for we all too often will jump to the conclusion that a movie is good or bad. Without going any further, we fail to appreciate all the time and work put into this piece of art. It is entertainment, but can be much more meaningful and significant. I enjoyed this book, and will enjoy it again, once I see more of the movies the author discusses. This is a book you can enjoy over and over again and actually put to good use.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2003

    Switch onto a world of Film

    It is not as I feared. This book doesn't look to find nuggets of truth in films, or to claim films as having a specific religious message. Rather it revels in the human art of 'moving celluloid pictures, illuminated by light, telling stories'. Encouraging us to dig a bit deeper, to engage with what we watch when the lights go down and to consider what we have just been through when the credits roll. Higgins suggest, early on in the book, that to engage with films we need to develop our own language and categories to make sense of them. This way we have a handle to think and talk about our films more constructively. It¿s the sort of advice that makes good sense, but that I would not have thought of myself. I also found it revealing about the types of films I watch, that there are certain films I avoided, leaving gaps in my language. After Higgins advice I plan to start filling these over the coming months. Higgins then uses this idea to structure the rest of the book. There is a chapter on each area of his categories. Each one introduces it's theme (e.g. brokenness, fear, quest) before looking in detail at some films he puts in it. For further reading there is then a 'primer' section that briefly suggest other films that could be viewed in the this area, before that chapter is concluded in 'the wrap'. Although I don't think Higgins is suggesting that we pick up his language and use it directly. It is very useful to see how someone else does it, to enable us to start thinking along these lines ourselves. Along the way he enthuses about hundreds of films, that provide good fuel for the fire. This is a book that I expect to return to as I watch more movies. Whether to see what Higgins says about them, or to see where he would put them in his language, or to find other films to watch along similar lines. All in all a useful and thought provoking book.

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