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Through a Screen Darkly Paperback – Bargain Price, February 5, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. If viewing a film is to be a spiritual exercise, one must be open to conversion. Overstreet, cultural commentator and film critic for Christianity Today, leads readers through his own cinematic conversion in this compelling volume. Overstreet's greatest gift is the masterful way he brings a spirit of discernment to the world of film. For example, determining when sex and violence is artfully employed or when it is just plain gratuitous is not always an easy task. Overstreet uses inspiring anecdotes from his life to show how the process of discerning the content and meaning of films takes patience, prayer and humility. He exhibits all of these traits through his movie commentaries and invites the reader to set aside biases about what is "properly" Christian and look deeper toward how cinema as an art form affects one's soul. This, according to Overstreet, is the work of God. At times, the author's stories distract from his main point, but his primary goal is one to be celebrated: "I have a strange compulsion to sit down between Christian culture and secular society, trying to help them understand each other—and ultimately, God—better through a shared experience of art." Two thumbs up! (Feb. 8)
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He writes beautifully in Through a Screen Darkly...routinely finding redemptive insights in unusual places. -- Youthworker Journal, May/June 2007
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This book, though, has brought a whole new perspective to that journey. Jeffrey Overstreet has written a very readable, and often times moving, book about the intersection of Christianity (our culture's most apparent religious expression) and film (our most noticeable artistic expression these days). I especially appreciated the way that he modeled the use of movies in discussing how they reflect faith and sometimes expose us to divine truths.
I realize that the author and I probably come from somewhat different theological perspectives and I have to let go of my only frustration with the book. I feel that he spent too much of his writing explaining away why he appreciates and endorses movies that may be too over the edge for some Christians. I do understand and appreciate the fact that he gets way too much email criticizing him for pointing out the good of a particular movie that has too much violence/sex/foul language/you-name-it for the email writer. But I did grow a little tired of the repeated justifications that began to sound like apologies.
I especially commend the second chapter, "Viewer Discretion Advised," for the best essay I have ever read about the intersection of faith and the arts, and not just cinematic arts. His viewpoint is clearly written and can be applied to how we might look at any art form as a window into a bit of understanding about God.
I am rejuvenated in my interest in movies by this book and highly recommend it.
I'm also the kind of guy that likes to ponder what things mean. I don't often find this type of discussion in DVD extras. But I do find it in Jeffrey's book Through a Screen Darkly. He deftly weaves a tapestry of meaning based on movies--our national art form. He discusses faith and film thoughtfully, and personally. From his childhood with the Muppets, to his daily work as a film reviewer, Jeffrey talks about things and their meaning in a personal way--not abstract, not theoretical, but through the use of his own coming-of-age-as-a-movie-viewer story. Jeffrey is insightful on many levels--he knows many of the people he writes about, and has conversed with them over time. He watches their films and discusses their deeper meaning. He also has a lot of fun discussing what he cares so passionately about. His is not a dry read, but one filled with light and truth.
I'd encourage you to get a copy; see what you've been missing. Things mean things, and Jeffrey's insight will help you see better, too. Even in the dark.