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dc.contributor.advisorRae, Murray
dc.contributor.advisorRadner, Hilary
dc.contributor.authorGoodwin, Richard Vance
dc.identifier.citationGoodwin, R. V. (2018). Seeing is Believing: Revelation, Emotion, and Film Images (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy). University of Otago. Retrieved from
dc.description.abstractOne of the most theologically interesting aspects of cinema is its apparent capacity to mediate revelation. While the primary agent of revelation is God, without whom revelation cannot happen, certain films seem to elicit claims of revelation more consistently than do other films. This project seeks to elucidate the relationship between revelation and film form, examining the stylistic, especially visual, features of films that commonly occasion purported experiences of revelation. Moreover, this project aims to offer an account of how formal strategies might be said to be conducive to revelatory experience without compromising the essential primacy of God’s agency in revelation. This research is presented in two parts. Part One lays the theoretical foundations by examining revelation from several vantage points. The doctrine of general revelation speaks to how revelation may take place outside ecclesial contexts and without explicit reference to Jesus Christ, yet the dominant Protestant perspectives on the matter have been too pessimistic about sinful humanity’s capacity to rightly receive general revelation to allow for the possibility of revelation through film. Thus, a revised, pneumatologically oriented account of general revelation is offered, generous enough to accommodate the particular, affective experiences that often characterise film-mediated revelation but that have historically been overlooked in traditional formulations of the doctrine. I address the possibility of revelation specifically through film, assess empirical data on the phenomenon of spiritual or religious experience through film, and critically engage with an influential theory of film form with respect to viewers’ experiences of the Transcendent, “transcendental style”. A model of revelation based on Jacob’s divine encounter in Gen 28 is proposed, the “Bethel paradigm”, in which film form invites particular affective responses that guide the viewer’s attention to those aspects of the environment through which God reveals Godself. Part Two consists of case studies of specific films, each one an exploration of visual and other stylistic strategies of films that seem to regularly elicit religious, even revelatory, experiences. Aside from the form, affective impact is also considered. The films analysed are Ordet and Silent Light (considered together) with a particular focus on lighting and wonder; 2001: A Space Odyssey with a particular focus on mise-en-scène and awe; and Magnolia with a particular focus on editing and connectedness. In each case, these concepts are considered with regard to possible resonances with theological tradition. Though a study in revelation like this permits only provisional claims, the widely attested religious reception of the films examined in this study makes it plausible that some viewers have had experiences that could be categorised as revelatory. That certain films appear to elicit these sorts of responses more consistently than others suggests that there are objective factors that correlate with film-mediated revelation. The Bethel paradigm proposed in this thesis provides an account of revelation that gives space for consideration of film form as being conducive to revelatory experience while still preserving the essential primacy of God’s agency in revelation. It seems reasonable to suggest, therefore, that certain visual and other stylistic components may contribute towards providing the optimal conditions for revelation to be experienced.
dc.publisherUniversity of Otago
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dc.subjectgeneral revelation
dc.subjectfilm form
dc.subjectfilm style
dc.subjectcognitive film theory
dc.subjecttranscendental style
dc.subjectgenesis 28
dc.subjectcarl theodor dreyer
dc.subjectsilent light
dc.subjectcarlos reygadas
dc.subject2001: a space odyssey
dc.subjectstanley kubrick
dc.subjectpaul thomas anderson
dc.subjectrobert k. johnston
dc.subjectpaul schrader
dc.subjectsheila nayar
dc.subjectjonathan brant
dc.subjectjames k. a. smith
dc.subjectrudolf otto
dc.subjectjohn zizioulas
dc.subjectcolin gunton
dc.titleSeeing is Believing: Revelation, Emotion, and Film Images
dc.language.rfc3066en and Religion of Philosophy of Otago
otago.openaccessAbstract Only
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