When I first read the title of the book, “The Message Behind The Movie“, my initial response to the title was, the message behind all the movies made today is bad! Now I don’t claim to be a movie critic, but I do admit to being very critical of the product put out by Hollywood these days. It’s not an opinion I’ve had all my life however.
Truth is, until I gave my life to Christ I was more of an agnostic when it came to my opinion of movies. Like many Americans, I was oblivious to the influence movies and television had on the way I looked at the world. Whenever I heard others complaining about the bad influence movies had upon society I would shrug my shoulders and consider them a bit too critical for life. I mean, after all, it was just entertainment as far as I was concerned.
After I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, something changed. All of a sudden those rose colored glasses I saw the world through cracked, and the truth began to seep into my consciousness. Eventually I began to see the world differently, and I started to realize how much of my life had been influenced by the movies I watched through the years. Eventually I became so enraged by the way Hollywood movies had become propaganda films for leftist political agendas and immoral lifestyles that I not only stopped going the theater, but I also gave up on television.
So when a friend asked me to read a book about the movies my first instinct caused me to reject the idea. Then I read the title, “The Message Behind The Movie”. I’ll admit that while the title may have grabbed my curiousity, it was the smoothness of the way the book flowed and the value of its message that made me eager to write this review.
Before I embarked upon my task however, I wanted to know what those whom this book is targeted towards thought about today’s movies. In a recent poll of 2513 people, 71% responded that many movies are bad and some are good, while 17% said that all movies are garbage. Interestingly, only 10% thought movies were either harmless entertainment or mostly good. Here is a sampling of some comments I received as to the question I posted online at FreeRepublic.com and Post Scripts, “What’s Your Opinion of Today’s Movies”?
Then there was this comment by a Freeper named, 3catsanadog, that pretty much summed up my take;
My feeling towards movies put me with the 90% who find very little, if anything, redeemable in today’s movies. When considering those the author is trying to reach, I must admit that I would be a prime candidate to see if reading his book would prove valuable in the task that he took on.
Douglas Beaumont, the author, is an instructor at Southern Evangelical Seminary where he is also pursuing a Ph.D. in philosophy of religion. A self-proclaimed movie junkie, Doug wanted to unite his interest in theology, philosophy, and apologetics with his love of film. In “The Message Behind The Movie”, Doug attempts to help the Christian reader do a better job of interacting with the secular culture by understanding the movies that shape and reveal it.
He does this by introducing various aspects of how a story is told so that the reader will find themdelves better equiped to steer non-believers into discussions about faith. This is a process Doug calls cinevangelism. Now I must admit that it seems a bit strange, and to some it may even border on being heretical, mentioning secular entertainment and evangelism in the same sentence. However, the author reminds us that the Apostle Paul himself used Greek philosophical arguments about the creastion to lead pagan philosophers to Christ. It is these kinds of eye opening methods that Doug leads the reader through while providing a foundation of Scriptural truths that will help a believer properly evaluate a movie.
“The Message Behind The Movie” is written in three acts much like the ancient structure of plays were divided by Aristotle into three acts. Each act is then divided into chapters that explain how stories and characters develop along established patterns that have been followed since Syd Field wrote his landmark book, “Screenplay”. These lessons are significant when you consider that most moviegoers don’t usually think in terms of character or structure while watching a movie. The book will inevitably bless even the most experienced of movie buffs.
Act One, the author explains how movies communicate through various means and how to understand the way stories are told. The reader is introduced to such characters as the protagonist and the herald, along with how to pay attention to the sights and sounds. The first section closes out with a discussion of the way the story is told, its supposition presented, and how to put all this information into practice so you can properly understand a film. By the end of the first section you have a better understanding of how to let a movie speak for itself without distractions interfering with its message. I was unable to set the book down at this point, as I was eagerly awaiting the next section and the lessons I would glean from it.
Act Two gives the reader a lesson in how to properly discuss and evaluate the different aspects of a movie, whether that be religious, philosophical, theological, or Scriptural. It is no secret that Hollywood either portrays Christianity as an outdated religion whose followers are narrow minded, or it presents a false gospel that leads people away from the truth. This section was my favorite in that Doug shows off his apologetical skills by presenting various lessons on how to defend the faith and by pointing out negatives and positives of the movie’s message, without getting into a deep religious discussion that would turn off non Christians.
In the final chapter, Act Three, the author discusses the issues that Christians raise about the value of movies and introduces principles that can be applied when choosing which movies to watch and which ones to avoid. Many Christians, in defending their stance for or against movies, will use various verses from the Bible. The author takes these Scriptures and puts them in their proper context to help the reader better understand his take on the value movies can have for cinevangelizing. As I finished reading this last chapter I must honestly say I felt better equipped to not only understand the message behind the movie, but also how to use the message as a tool to defend and proclaim my faith as a Christian. It is my opinion that Christians who enjoy going to the movies should read “The Message Behind The Movie”, before they see their next film. I understand there is new Steven Speilberg movie out called “Cowboys and Aliens”. (Trailer below). My wife is a big Harrison Ford fan, so I think I’ll take her to the movies.