Cinema has become perhaps the defining medium of Western culture—no less in Australia than elsewhere—and now assumes roles previously played by the novel and the theatre. The downside of this cultural shift, as Scott Cowdell laments in his article below, has been a ‘3D deluge of plot-less and character-less commercial product full of CGI effects and empty of insight’. Nevertheless, ‘high art remains widely available from the cinema and its proxies.
Hence the baton of great literature is passing de facto to film in our time, as does the prophetic insight that might once have been expected from Christian pulpits.’ Although the scholarly study of film has long been a rich and vibrant field, it is only in recent decades that theologians and Christian thinkers have begun to engage seriously with the messages and medium of film. Yet the potential of film for theological engagement is vast, especially given the ways in which popular films depict religion, values and theological themes in relation to the human condition, evil and suffering, transcendence, moral and religious redemption, and religious and cultural difference. Film also represents a powerful visual and narrative medium for public debate on moral and religious issues in church and society.
Like literature and other cultural products, film provides a medium for theological reflection, and a medium for engagement between theology and culture. These themes are the focus of this issue of St Mark’s Review