Movies and Midrash: Popular Film and Jewish Religious Conversation

Cover for Movies and Midrash: Popular Film and Jewish Religious Conversation
  • Year: 2017
  • Publisher: SUNY Press

Movies and Midrash uses cinema as a springboard to discuss central Jewish texts and matters of belief. A number of books have drawn on films to explicate Christian theology and belief, but Wendy I. Zierler is the first to do so from a Jewish perspective, exploring what Jewish tradition, text, and theology have to say about the lessons and themes arising from influential and compelling films. The book uses the method of “inverted midrash”: while classical rabbinical midrash begins with exegesis of a verse and then introduces a mashal(parable) as a means of further explication, Zierler turns that process around, beginning with the culturally familiar cinematic parable and then analyzing related Jewish texts. Each chapter connects a secular film to a different central theme in classical Jewish sources or modern Jewish thought. Films covered include The Truman Show (truth), Memento (memory), Crimes and Misdemeanors (sin), Magnolia (confession and redemption), The Descendants(birthright), Forrest Gump (cleverness and simplicity), and The Hunger Games (creation of humanity in God’s image), among others.

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