Abstracts 2020


2001: A Space Odyssey as Transcendental Style in Film by Dr Bill Anderson from Concordia University of Edmonton

My thesis is that Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey is either intentionally, intuitively or coincidentally consistent with the genre of Transcendental Style in Film as articulated by Paul Schrader in his book Transcendental Style in Film.

Schrader defines the genre of Transcendental Style in Film as being shot in the form of slow film with the following three elements.

1) Everyday (Banality)
2) Disparity (of the protagonist with his environment) leading to “decisive action”
3) Stasis

2001 meets these criteria perfectly. Slow film is used to create the boredom whereby the viewer either “gets out” (like Rock Hudson at the premiere in 1968) or “buys in”, i.e., starts to think about the deeper meaning of the movie. There is the everyday banality in the first two parts of the film. Part 1 the “Dawn of Man” has the everyday banality exhibited in both the Apes in the Desert and Moon Mission (where humans have not evolved very much) and in Part 2 “The Jupiter Mission”. The “decisive action” is Bowman shutting down HAL (human dependency on their own creation as bondage/prison) which leads to the Star Gate. Part 3 “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite” leads to Stasis with the Star Child as icon pointing beyond the finite to the “Infinite” or transcendence (much as the stake functions in Bresson’s The Trial of Joan of Arc).

This presentation will also utilize the philosophical components of Nietzsche’s “Three Metamorphoses” in Also Sprach Zarathustra which are represented in the three parts of 2001 and in relation to TSIF.

The Celluloid Closet Revisited: Christian and Queer by Ms Tilly Flood, Independent Researcher

This paper will explore the relationship between religion and homosexuality as represented in film. The title refers to Vito Russo’s landmark study of gay lives in film represented in his 1987 book The Celluloid Closet. This was later made into a successful documentary film. What Russo found was that gay lives in film were almost, without exception, cast in a negative light up until that time. I intend to revisit The Celluloid Closet in the 21st century to see if anything has changed.

My presentation will examine the intersection of organised religion and gay lives over a number of decades. I will look at 5 films divided into 3 categories of Christian experience. First, I will examine the evangelical experience by way of the film Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (based on Jeanette Winterson’s novel) set in 1970s Britain. As a counterpoint, I will examine the recent (2018) film Boy Erased which looks at the experience of a young man being sent to a conversion camp by his evangelical family to be cured of his homosexual desires. Secondly, I will look at the Reformed experience by examining the 1995 film When Night is Falling by Canadian film maker Patricia Rozema. The center of this story is a woman at a Calvinist college who is discovering her attraction to other women. Thirdly, I will look at the Catholic experience as expressed in the 1994 film Priest about a gay Roman Catholic priest. I will also examine the 2016 film Holding the Man which is about the love story of two Catholic school boys whose love lasted a lifetime.

It is my intent and hope that the audience will discover that gay characters are now represented in a more authentic and positive than they have been in past history.

A Few Good Men: Pious Jews and Pious Catholics in the Films of Joel and Ethan Coen by Mr Michael Gillingham from the University of Alberta

Brothers Joel and Ethan Coen are two of Hollywood’s brightest and boldest screenwriters and directors currently working today.  They have worked on over twenty feature films together as well as numerous other projects.  Their films are noted for their sharp humour, their memorable characters, and their particularly quotable dialogue.  Their films are also noted for their willingness to engage with religious and philosophical questions as they depict characters with varying degrees of involvement and commitment to organized religion.  For the purposes of this paper, I want to focus on male characters from the films A Serious Man and Hail, Caesar!  In A Serious Man a Jewish physics professor in the Midwestern United States experiences several personal setbacks.  These setbacks inspire him to search for answers from his rabbis and from his Jewish faith.  In scenes that echo the Book of Job from the Hebrew Bible, this pious Jewish man questions God’s fairness.  In Hail, Caesar! a Catholic man who works as a ‘fixer’ for a Hollywood movie studio struggles with his own personal failings and sins.  His frequent trips to the confessional at his church provide insight into his efforts to overcome what might seem to others as a minor offense against God and his wife.  His efforts to manage the production of a biblical epic movie about the life of Christ raise questions about religion and cinema, religion and public life, the relationship between Christianity and Judaism, and the relationship between modern life and faith.  I want to explore how personal religious piety is constructed and depicted for male pious Jews in A Serious Man and for male pious Christians of various denominations in Hail, Caesar!  I will be setting these constructions in conversation with recent scholarship on religion in the movies of the Coen Brothers.

“Tradition!”: Twenty-First Century Reflections upon Cultural, Generational, and Religious Change in Fiddler on the Roof by Dr Cory Seibel from Taylor Seminary and Central Baptist Church, Edmonton

Released in 1971, the movie Fiddler on the Roof portrays the impact of cultural change upon the small, early twentieth century Russian village of Anatevka. The film’s narrative follows the life of Tevye, an Orthodox Jewish man, who struggles to cope with the realities of change in the world around him and their implications for his family. The importance that Tevye places upon his religious tradition constitutes a central theme of the movie; for Tevye, tradition serves a crucial role in providing one with a clear sense of identity, duty, and stability. However, the changes occurring around him disrupt Tevye’s understanding of tradition. He is thrust into a series of crises that force him to renegotiate his vision of tradition’s function within his own life and that of his family. This film’s release came during a time when North American society was experiencing profound cultural upheaval. Many adults at the time, perplexed by the changes they saw being embrace within their children’s generation, could surely relate to Tevye’s struggles. Several decades later, we find ourselves once again in a period of significant generational change, one in which many adults have experienced a sense of disorientation and unease. This paper proposes that, nearly fifty years after its release, Fiddler remains a relevant resource; its story line can aid us reflecting upon our experience of shifting cultural paradigms, the implications of cultural change for our religious traditions, and the impact of change upon our lives and families. Even those who presume to espouse “post-traditional” values likely will identify with the generational, cultural, and theological issues this film raises. Informed by practical theology methodology, this paper will bring insights from Fiddler on the Roof into conversation with theological and social-scientific resources to enrich our vision of intergenerational solidarity in a changing world.