Only in the last forty or so years, since around the start of the 1970s, have Hollywood directors seriously investigated and dramatized questions having to do with organized religion and with God's existence, nature, and relationship to man. Before that, because the industry was fearful of offending religious groups and thus losing audiences, when Hollywood made a film about religion it was usually a dramatization of a Bible story (Cecile B. DeMille's Samson and Delilah) or a fantasy (Frank Capra's It’s a Wonderful Life). European directors, e.g., Frenchman Robert Bresson (A Condemned Man Escaped), Swedish Ingmar Bergman (The Seventh Seal), Spanish Luis Bunuel (Simon of the Desert), by contrast, had been writing and dramatizing stories that seriously dealt with God and religion for decades. Some of the American directors who finally took up the subject include Terrence Malick (Days of Heaven), Woody Allen (Crimes and Misdemeanors), George Cosmatos (Tombstone), Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton), and Clint Eastwood (Pale Rider). We will see and examine a number of these films and others—one Asian—that deal with God or gods intervening in human affairs or causing a protagonist spiritual or moral anguish.
Reading: Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The Grand Inquisitor”; The Bible: those parts relevant to each film.
Writing: Before we discuss each film, students will hand in a couple of paragraphs that explain how God was employed in it. Students will also write two papers, a Mid-semester and a Final examination.