Movies Are Prayers
by Josh Larsen
The first time I heard Josh Larsen discuss film, it was as a guest on the “Filmspotting” podcast (which he has now co-hosted for several years). My ears perked up when I heard he wrote for Think Christian, and I was even more surprised when I heard him intelligently discuss “Shame,” a film I’d loved but was at a loss to talk about because its subject matter isn’t exactly something Christian audiences flock to. Over the years, Larsen’s voice has become one of my favorites in film criticism, because he not only is able to deftly analyze and discuss a film, but he has no snobbery about him. Yes, he’ll go to bad for art house favorites like “Leviathan” or “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia,” but he’s also not afraid to talk about enjoyment he gets from “Star Wars” (even the prequels!) or comic book movies. When I heard he was writing a book about films, I knew it would be one I’d need to check out.
“Movies Are Prayers,” however, exceeded my expectations. More than just yet another book about a Christian approach to film, it’s an insightful, moving and smart discussion about the nuances of film and the complexities of prayer. My thoughts about how we communicate to God and what our prayers look like — not just requests, but prayers of joy, lament, anger and awe — were forever changed by Larsen’s discussion. The book is one cinephiles will love, bringing in discussions of Malick, “Sunrise” and others, but it’s also accessible to filmgoers just beginning to navigate the intersection of faith and art. It’s an often funny, often surprising book and its mix of theology and film criticism is refreshing. Like Jeffrey Overstreet’s “Through a Screen Darkly,” it’s essential reading for any film love and person of faith, and I’m looking forward to revisiting some of the movies Larsen tackles and making this book one I return to again over the years.