In Into the Dark, Craig Detweiler, a well-respected film expert and media spokesperson on Hollywood and Christianity, examines 45 twenty-first century films that resonate theologically—from The Lord of the Rings trilogy to Little Miss Sunshine—offering groundbreaking insight into their scriptural connections and theological applications.
Detweiler uses IMDb, the wildly popular Internet Movie Database, to select today’s most influential contemporary films. Into the Dark dissects the theology of everyday life, exploring the work of the Spirit of God in creation and redemption to discuss “general revelation” through cinema and sometimes unlikely filmmakers.
“Memory, community, and imagination offer a strong starting place for theological reflection,” Detweiler writes. Driven by the art of the films, Into the Dark opens up lively discussion topics, including anthropology, the problem of evil, sin, interconnectivity, postmodern relationships, ethics, fantasy, and communities in crisis. Notable movies discussed include Gladiator, United 93, Million Dollar Baby, and Walk the Line.
This book is recommended for college and seminary students in film, theology, and communications courses as well as pastors, film fans, and those interested in Christianity and the cinema.
Craig Detweiler’s Into the Dark is a passionate, thoughtful assessment of the spiritual aspects of cinema. Detweiler provides a refreshingly open-minded engagement with Hollywood, insisting on an integrative approach to general revelation wherein the cinematic ‘good, true, and beautiful’ are broadly defined and broadly discovered. It is uncommon to hear Christians speak of mass entertainment as ‘a form of Mass, a common grace,’ as Detweiler does, but such a perspective is sorely needed and appropriately provocative.
—Brett McCracken, film critic, Christianity Today and Relevant
I was humbled and inspired by Craig Detweiler’s encyclopedic work. As a Christian screenwriter in postmodern Hollywood, I struggle every day to find the intersection between my faith and my craft. Into the Dark illuminates many such points of cohesion but in places one wouldn’t think—or even dare—to look. Detweiler could have easily restricted his analysis to softer cinema: the anemic family dramas or self-important epics that try to pass as spiritual fare. Instead he chose to find wisdom in film’s most profound shadows. As a result, Into the Dark does more than inform; it invites us to open our eyes and discover the divine in even the most brutal of movies.
—Matt Greenberg, screenwriter and producer
Detweiler delivers one of the more successful and substantial theological interpretations of contemporary movies, mining film for spiritual meaning. . . . [He] brings his theological expertise to bear on such recent works as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Million Dollar Baby, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Besides their impressive entertainment value, these films and several others are rich in God language and religious significance. Why, some may wonder, do we need to reflect upon films so intensely? The answer is that we don’t, but if we are grasping for meaning in our culture, as Detweiler contends, movies are a fine place to start looking for God.
Craig Detweiler is an associate professor of communication at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. He previously served as codirector of the Reel Spirituality Institute at Fuller Theological Seminary. Detweiler has written scripts for numerous Hollywood films, and his social documentary, Purple State of Mind, debuted in 2008. He has been featured in the New York Times, on CNN, and on NPR and is the coauthor of A Matrix of Meanings.