Sunday, August 13, 2017

Book Review: Movies are Prayers -- Talking to God at the movies

Image result for movies are prayers josh larsen book cover

ovies are Prayers: How Films Voice Our Deepest Longings; Josh Larsen, IVP Books (2017)

I picked this up as a dear friend told me about it and it intrigued me. I love movies and have connected them with my faith for over a decade. I have seen them as ways we can experience transcendance as we engage with movies, learning something about ourselves, life, and God, and sometimes even experiencing God Himself.  I had not necessarily thought of them as prayers.

Josh Larsen, cohost of the podcast *Filmspotting*, says “that movies, at their most potent, are not diversions or products or even works of art, but prayerful gestures received by God.” He further elaborates: “Movies are our way of telling God what we think about this world and our place in 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 prayer.”

He divides the book into 10 types of prayer, each forming a chapter of the book:

1) Prayers of praise
2) Prayers of yearning
3) Prayers of lament
4) Prayers of anger
5) Prayers of confession
6) Prayers of reconciliation
7) Prayers of obedience
8) Payers of meditation
9) Prayers of joy
10) Prayer as journey

He uses various movies, from Buster Keaton silent film, to the most recent Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, as well as books and scripture to illustrate his points. For the most part, just a scene or two from a film is used.

This book is a quick read and does communicate the writer’s thesis well. I have two main criticisms. First, it is short at just over 200 pages, with a good 25% devoted to notes. I had expected more. Second, I anticipated more in-depth analysis of some films. Larsen does that at the very end, as he takes the concept of prayer as journey and looks at one film. He does with Rushmore, exploring how it moves through the various stages in progression. That was what I wanted more of.

All in all, I would recommend this book. I’d give it 3.5 if I could.

Copyright ©2017, Martin Baggs