On the Hermeneutics of Religious Film Criticism

  • Author(s): Joshua R. Furnal
  • When: 2011-11
  • Where: Literature and Theology
  • This article critically evaluates a recent debate between two religious film critics, Christopher Deacy and Steve Nolan. Although both critics employ different approaches to film, both claim that the other lacks a preferred method. The argument of this article is that the central emphasis of this debate is misplaced: the issue is not that a method is lacking-that one lacks film theory and the other lacks theology-but rather how a method is employed. In other words, both critics understand films in the same way: as illustrations of a previously established theme and as an empty placeholder for an external system of thought. In contrast to Deacy's and Nolan's approach to film criticism, I briefly turn to the work of philosopher Stephen Mulhall to suggest an alternative that considers some films as doing the same kind of work as religious film critics. This alternative approach offers a better understanding of the task of film criticism because it allows the film to retain its integrity and does not attempt to sever the task of film criticism from the self-understanding of the film critic.

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