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Useless Beauty: Ecclesiastes Through the Lens of Contemporary Film

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Useless Beauty: Ecclesiastes Through the Lens of Contemporary Film

In a postmodern age, life is often perceived in terms of difficult paradoxes and contradictions, which seem irreconcilable with a Christian understanding of human existence. In this book, Robert K. Johnston uses film criticism as a medium of dialogue between the ancient and the postmodern, analyzing how both the Book of Ecclesiastes and such contemporary films as American Beauty, Magnolia, and Run Lola Run present life's beauty despite its pain and apparent futility.

He argues that there should be a two-way dialogue between Christianity and film, one informing the other. Through its recognition that both Ecclesiastes and today's movies understand something of the hard reality of life, this book presents a challenge to the common assumptions that the Bible is too heavy-handed to be applied usefully to movies and that cinema is dangerous to faith. Rather, Johnston argues that Christians ought not shrink from the fact that life and the life-like material presented in movies are not always neat and tidy. Unike many contemporary Christian film critics, Johnston employs a "reverse hermeneutical flow," beginning by using popular culture as it is presented in film to achieve a better understanding of the Book of Ecclesiastes. Only then does he turn the argument and use the biblical text to see more clearly what movies present to the public. Johnston uses this form of criticism to explore the themes of life and death, chance and choice, loneliness and connection, and God's presence and absence as they are presented in Ecclesiastes, modern films, and human life. Students and professors of the Old Testament, theology, and film will find this book an invaluable resource for their studies.

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