Sunday, December 23, 2007

"Scripture Readers"

One item I've spent pondering as of late has been the set of children's readers that the church has put out for each of the canonized standard works, not including the Pearl of Great Price. This set of books is the closest thing that the church has made to a standardized scriptural piece of cinema.

It raises all sorts of issues: placement of narrative, narration, narrative in image versus text, visual style despite differing sources, etc.

The most interesting, though undoubtedly the least successful, is the Doctrine and Covenants reader. This is both experimental and didactic and worthy of serious discussion.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

2 Corinthians 4:18

"17 For our light affliction which is but a moment worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."

I've included verse 17 here as a context-giver, though it opens up discussions and implications as to the temporal aspect of film that I don't want to discuss here (I still haven't read Tarkovsky's book, either). Verse 18 has been going over and over in my mind since I happened upon it again a few months ago. These acts of seeing and looking (important that there is a distinction, I believe) are central to cinema as it is primarily a visual art. How does LDS doctrine address this act of seeing? Here, Paul adds a spiritual and other-worldly approach to the discussion: the things which are seen are temporal, the things which are unseen are eternal. The directive part is that we, as a body of Christ, look only at the eternal, and we do NOT look at the things which are seen.

So, if we only take this verse, our cinema should be via negativo and only that. Do we only show the thing we are not talking about? I'm not advocating anything one way or the other, but it seems to me that that is the way to read this.

Now, one thing that Sunday School conversations about anything biblical seem to do is fall back on the Joseph Smith Translation and the 8th article of faith. Is the JST a divine, inspired source? YES. But too often if there isn't a JST translation we tend to just throw it out. We even do that WITH the JST translation sometimes. All I ask is that we consider this verse and the implications it has for our medium.

Hopefully more on this to come.

Start up

I've been spending a lot of time reading David Bordwell's blog since Ashley and I finally got an internet connection here in Poland. The ideas there have stuck in my head so firmly and have caused so much thought that my project notebook is riddled with references to his site (his recent comparison between Wyler and Mizoguchi has been relived in my head once every other day since then). But I am troubled that there is no place for cinephiles/filmmakers who also happened to be versed in LDS terminology/doctrine to discuss such things in as intelligent a manner as so many cinephiles and filmmakers are doing at this very moment.

Though I'm worried, however, that there won't be many interested in these discussions, I hope that the few will grow and, in turn, be challenged to perceive in a new light. Perhaps this could be a case of that "critical minority" engaging in the discussion.

To start, I would like to paste a part from an email I wrote to Dean Duncan. My last semester at BYU I took 'Transcendence in Cinema' from him. There and other places he said that LDS General Conference is the perfect expression of transcendence in cinema because it showed a preacher preaching--nothing more, nothing less. This last General Conference seemed to challenge that idea for me and added more to my idea of "LDS Cinema" more than anything else. I share my thoughts here (please share yours):

"Elder Wirthlin's talk made your statement more true than it had been before. On three levels that piece of video was the perfect marriage of form and content: first was that a preacher was preaching and we were receiving, but as he struggled, 2. Elder Nelson stood behind him they became a visual expression more moving than the words: a father and son, the spirit and the priesthood, God and Man. Together, but standing alone. As Elder Wirthlin spoke of Love, Elder Nelson and their relationship embodied it. That made me reconsider your statement. And third, We saw how Elder Wirthlin still struggled even with the help of his friend and he wanted to finish for us. His self-sacrifice was his topic. Form and content. "