Movies do more than tell a good story. They are expressions of raw emotion, naked vulnerability, and unbridled rage. They often function in the same way as prayers, communicating our deepest longings and joys to a God who hears each and every one.
In this captivating book, Movies Are Prayers:How Films Voice Our Deepest Longings, Filmspotting co-host Josh Larsen brings a critic's unique perspective to how movies function as expressions to God of lament, praise, joy, confession, and more. His clear expertise and passion for the art of film, along with his thoughtful reflections on the nature of prayer, will bring you a better understanding of both.
God's omnipresence means that you can find him whether you're sitting on your sofa at home or in the seats at the theater. You can talk to him wherever movies are shown. And when words fail, the perfect film might be just what you need to jump-start your conversations with the Almighty.
"Going far beyond a simple assessment of Christlike martyr figures (the movies are lousy with 'em), Josh Larsen's passionate and movingly reflective new book makes an inspiring case for treating a provocative variety of films as prayers for all seasons. He writes on everything from Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life to Michael Haneke's Amour, teasing out the filmmakers' insatiable desire to wrestle with the unknowable. But his democratically theological approach to the medium he loves brings into play unexpected gems: Polanski's Chinatown, or Demme's The Silence of the Lambs (to which Larsen took his future wife on a date). 'Many films,' he writes, 'even the challenging ones, are capable of functioning as messy, mixed-up, miraculous prayer.' I've long been engaged by Larsen's film criticism on Filmspotting, but his book seeks and finds a higher power and a more mysterious set of concerns, somewhere out past the lobby."
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
"This is one of the best books on film and theology I've ever read. By conceiving of and engaging with movies as 'prayerful gestures received by God," Larsen guides the reader in a study that is itself a reverent, prayerful gesture. Packed with insights into how both the content and the form of films can mirror prayer, Movies Are Prayers is a must-read for anyone who has ever felt the pangs of transcendence in a movie theater. Yet this is a book as much about prayer as it is about pop culture. Readers will gain not only new language with which to understand movies, but an enlivened paradigm for understanding prayer."
Brett McCracken, film critic for Christianity Today, author of Gray Matters and Hipster Christianity
"There's a lot of writing on film and theology, but a perspective like Larsen's-fresh, insightful, and interesting for anyone-is a rare gift to cinephiles and more casual movie viewers alike. In Movies Are Prayers, Larsen encourages us to rethink movies as not just vehicles for content, but as actual expressions of the heart's deepest longings, readjusting the way we think about both films and their creators-and, by extension, ourselves as viewers and critics."
Alissa Wilkinson, film critic, Vox.com, associate professor of English and humanities, The King's College
Josh Larsen is the co-host of the radio show and podcast Filmspotting, as well as editor and film critic at Think Christian, a faith and culture website. He's been writing and speaking about movies professionally for more than two decades.
Josh's career began in the mainstream newspaper business, where he started out as a beat reporter for a weekly community newspaper and went on to become the film critic for the Chicago-based Sun-Times Media for more than ten years. In 2011, he joined the Christian media landscape as editor of Think Christian, and in 2012 he joined the long-running weekly podcast Filmspotting, aired on WBEZ in Chicago.
A veteran of the Sundance, Toronto, and Chicago International Film Festivals, Josh has given talks on film and faith at various Christian colleges. He also led the "Ebert Interruptus," a tradition established by Roger Ebert that analyzes a single film scene by scene over several days, at the University of Colorado's Conference on World Affairs. Josh lives in the Chicago area with his wife and two daughters.
Read Josh's movie reviews at his website, larsenonfilm.com.