Among the recent books on film and faith we note two here. Ron Austin, In a New Light: Spirituality and the Media Arts, Eerdmans, 2007, and Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film and Culture, Spencer Lewerenz and Barbara Nicolosi, Baker Books, 2005. In this slender but important volume Ron Austin draws on his nearly 50 years in Hollywood to provide us with an insightful look into connections between spirituality and film. Actor, writer, producer and teacher Austin brings us to consider the spiritual quality of film and opens the reader to the deep humanity that film is able to disclose.
He begins with three foundational principles “being in the moment” by which he means what Simone Weil called attentiveness. Pointing to our modern disability to see or listen he invites us to practice “simply being present”.
Affirming the mystery of the other is the second principle which he suggests is at the heart of dialogue – so vital to film. Transforming conflict is the third principle which he holds to be as essential for film. Form and content work together to help us see more deeply who we are and what it is that puts us at odds with one another. Austin then turns to a brief history of film with an eye to spiritual (human) themes. He offers comments on such filmmakers as Chaplin, Renoir, Fellini, Bresson, Bergman, Scorsese and Woody Allen. He also cites two exiles from communism each with deep religious sensibilities, the Russian Andrei Tarkovsky and Krzysztof Kieslowski of Poland both of whom according to Austin would serve well as guides for filmmakers today.
We could say this book is a sustained meditation of the importance of film in modern culture and its unique ability to disclose the human condition and nurture our humanity.