Books added September 28, 2011

Wendy M. Wright: Of Gods and Men

Wendy M. Wright wrote an article about the 2010 French drama Of Gods and Men, which will come out in the next issue of the Journal of Religion and Film. She starts her article with

It is, I am sure, not surprising that an essay on the 2010 French film Of Gods and Men, directed by Xavier Beauvois, should be included in a journal dedicated to religion and film. The fictionalized subject of the film, the internationally-publicized 1996 incident during which seven Trappist monks were engulfed by the drama of the ongoing Algerian Civil War and assassinated, features overtly religious characters. However, Of Gods and Men is not religious merely because of its subject matter but because it is able, through the visual medium, to explore in a compelling way the experience of human religiosity at its most intimate. This is a film that focuses deftly on the particularities of Christianity and of Christian monastic life but, even more than this, it explores the complexities of the human heart that is oriented toward ultimacy and honors the way in which religious practices and ideals enable persons to live deeply and courageously.

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Rabbi Norman M. Cohen: A Serious Man

Rabbi Norman M. Cohen wrote an article about the Coen brothers‘ movie A Serious Man, which will come out in the next issue of the Journal of Religion and Film. The first three paragraphs serve as a good introduction:

[1] In the Coen brothers’ movie, A Serious Man, they once again present the age old question of theodicy, the paradox of a just and good God and the existence of evil and injustice in the world, challenging the apparently simplistic religious notion that God rewards the good and punishes the wicked.  This time the issue is part of a Job like story that, like religion itself, asks more questions than it answers.

[2] And in the Coen brothers’ style, they utilize highly exaggerated stereotypes and caricatures that mock, humiliate and incite the sensibilities of their viewers, who have come to understand that it is part of the price of admission.

The Stereotypes of Joel and Ethan Coen

[3] If you like the Coen Brothers’ movies, you will probably like this one. If you don’t, you probably won’t. Of all their films this is the most identifiably Jewish, most potentially philosophical, and most troubling theologically. It is highly entertaining, but perhaps, at the expense of a number of individuals and ethnic groups.  A disclaimer at the end of the credits reads: No Jews were harmed during the filming of this movie. And that is one of the main objections people raise about the film. Will the use of antisemitic images and attitudes have a negative effect?

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