If you’ve listened to the last few episodes The Rabbit Room podcast, you know how much we love watching and talking about good movies. But have you ever considered the parallels between a thought-provoking film and a heartfelt prayer? This week’s Rabbit Reads selection invites you to do just that. Film junkies, take note, and add this to your reading list…
Movies Are Prayers by Josh Larsen (IVP Books, 2017)
Culture / Art / Film Criticism
Why We Love It: “Movies can be many things: escapist experiences, historical artifacts, business ventures, and artistic expressions, to name a few. I’d like to suggest that they can also be prayers.”
The world is lousy with books on making peace between Jesus and Hollywood. I recall a time when it seemed like there was a “Gospel According to…” take on just about any slice of pop culture—not that this was an entirely bad thing for me. After all, I used to turn to websites with cuss word counters before deciding whether to watch anything above a PG rating. And rated R movies? Nope.
What is and isn’t good for us is a constant discussion among film-loving Christians, and I’m so grateful for the work of thoughtful believers like Jeffrey Overstreet and Alissa Wilkinson, critics who aren’t afraid to dig deeper and teach us a better way to engage the stories we take in. After reading his new book Movies Are Prayers, I’d add Filmspotting podcast co-host Josh Larsen to the list. But this book truly gets interesting when you realize it isn’t exactly about “how to watch like a Christian” as much as it’s a meditation, using movies to illustrate the nature of prayer.
After establishing his argument that films, like prayers, are expressions of our deepest longings, an artistic groaning beyond words, Larsen breaks the book down into 10 different types of prayers. Lament, praise, anger, confession, and reconciliation all make an appearance, and within each chapter, he guides a quick tour of films that reinforce the theme. Examples from all genres — indie, foreign, blockbuster, and classics — are equally considered, sometimes for just a scene or two. Then at the end, he ties it all together with a critical essay on the movement from fall to redemption in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore.
Movies are Prayers is a quick read and doesn’t linger for long on any one topic, so don’t come expecting deep analysis of specific movies or directors. But the potential for deeper discussion is rich, and a handy index of every film mentioned in the book is helpful if you’re looking to expand your watchlist. Taken as a whole, this book invites us to reconsider what films could be, and it has a lot to teach about our longings too.
Jen Rose Yokel is a poet, freelance writer, and spiritual director. Her words have appeared at She Reads Truth, CCM Magazine, and other publications, and she released her first poetry collection Ruins & Kingdoms in 2015. Originally from Central Florida, she now makes her home in Fall River, Massachusetts with her husband Chris, where you can find her enjoying used bookstores and good coffee.