Into the Dark: Seeing the Sacred in the Top Films of the 21st Century

Overview

Reel Revelation

In Into the Dark, respected film expert Craig Detweiler examines forty-five twenty-first-century films that resonate theologically—from The Lord of the Rings trilogy to Little Miss Sunshine—offering groundbreaking insight into their scriptural connections and theological applications. Detweiler uses the IMDb, the wildly popular Internet Movie Database, to select today's most influential contemporary films. He dissects the theology of everyday life, exploring the ...

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Into the Dark (Cultural Exegesis): Seeing the Sacred in the Top Films of the 21st Century

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Overview

Reel Revelation

In Into the Dark, respected film expert Craig Detweiler examines forty-five twenty-first-century films that resonate theologically—from The Lord of the Rings trilogy to Little Miss Sunshine—offering groundbreaking insight into their scriptural connections and theological applications. Detweiler uses the IMDb, the wildly popular Internet Movie Database, to select today's most influential contemporary films. He dissects the theology of everyday life, exploring the work of the Spirit of God in creation and redemption to discuss "general revelation" through cinema and sometimes unlikely filmmakers. Into the Dark opens up lively discussion topics, including anthropology, the problem of evil, sin, interconnectivity, postmodern relationships, ethics, fantasy, and communities in crisis.

"Craig Detweiler is right when he says that film is a source of divine revelation. Into the Dark takes readers on a journey to discover how God is helping us understand our true identity, community, and divine history within popular culture. No Christian scholar, student, or film buff should be without this book."—David Bruce, webmaster, Hollywood Jesus

"Soak a brain in billions of digital bytes of filmic splendor and an equal amount of dynamic theology, awaken it to the 'sudden and miraculous grace' available at the intersection of faith and film, and you've got Craig Detweiler's tour de force. A brilliant, timely, and useful piece of work from the only brain that could have produced it!"—Dick Staub, author, The Culturally Savvy Christian and Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters, and host of The Kindling's Muse

"Craig Detweiler provides a refreshingly open-minded engagement with Hollywood, insisting on an integrative approach to general revelation wherein the cinematic 'good, true, and beautiful' are broadly defined and broadly discovered. It is uncommon to hear Christians speak of mass entertainment as 'a form of Mass, a common grace,' as Detweiler does, but such a perspective is sorely needed and appropriately provocative."—Brett McCracken, film critic for Christianity Today and Relevant

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Detweiler delivers one of the more successful and substantial theological interpretations of contemporary movies, mining film for spiritual meaning. The author, who is codirector of the Reel Spirituality Institute, contends that film is a powerful tool for society's self-reflection in a postmodern world. Nostalgia, memory and amnesia are three key themes in contemporary film that offer insights about our culture's sense of being lost in this postmodern context without any sense of direction. Detweiler brings his theological expertise to bear on such recent works as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Million Dollar Baby and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Besides their impressive entertainment value, these films and several others are rich in God language and religious significance. Why, some may wonder, do we need to reflect upon films so intensely? The answer is that we don't, but if we are grasping for meaning in our culture, as Detweiler contends, movies are a fine place to start looking for God. (July)

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Library Journal

Part of Baker Academic's "Cultural Exegesis" series, meant to engage modern-day experiences from a theological perspective, this unique book skillfully combines popular movies with evangelical principles. Its basic purpose is to extrapolate Christian lessons and biblical themes from some 45 top Hollywood films, among them Walk the Line, Hotel Rwanda, Little Miss Sunshine, Gladiator, Shrek, Finding Nemo, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Detweiler (theology & culture, Fuller Theological Seminary), who has previously written A Matrix of Meaning: Finding God in Popular Culture, another entry in this series, here posits that popular culture doesn't need to be contrary to contemporary spirituality but that it can be reflective of Christian values and even instructional in communicating religious beliefs. This is certainly truer of some of the films Detweiler discusses than others. The text is complete with an appendix, notes, and a subject index. Recommended for larger public and seminary libraries.
—John-Leonard Berg

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801035920
  • Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/1/2008
  • Series: Cultural Exegesis
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Craig Detweiler (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is professor of communication at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. He previously served as codirector of the Reel Spirituality Institute at Fuller Theological Seminary. Detweiler has written scripts for numerous Hollywood films, and his social documentary, Purple State of Mind (www.purplestateofmind.com), debuted in 2008. He has been featured in the New York Times, on CNN, and on NPR and is the coauthor of A Matrix of Meanings.

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Table of Contents

Preface: A Hornet's Nest
1. Methodology: Into the Darko
Part 1: Identity
2. Memento: Duped in Film Noir
3. Eternal Sunshine: The Risky Rewards of Romance
Part 2: Community
4. Crashing into the Ensemble Drama: Communities in Crisis
5. Talk to Her (and Him and Us): Everyday Ethics
Part 3: History
6. Finding Neverland: Nostalgia and Imagination in History
7. Spirited Away by Fantasy: Tending the Garden
8. Conclusion: Mnemonic Devices
Appendix A: Top 250 Movies as Voted by the Internet Movie Database Users
Appendix B: The IMDb's Top Films of the 21st Century (Jan. 1, 2007)
Appendix C: The IMDb's Top Films of the 21st Century (Jan. 1, 2008)

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