So… tonight I learned that Christianity Today reviewed Through a Screen Darkly three weeks ago, and I didn’t know about it until today! How did I miss that? Kind of strange, considering I write for them. But, well… wow! Cool!
Many thanks to Eric Miller for this generous, surprising review. Here are a couple of excerpts…
Overstreet’s memoirist-as-mentor tack serves the “invitation” part of the book well, enabling him to address contentious issues from an intimate, personal vantage. Nudity, sex, violence, profanity, anti-Christian storylines: He approaches each in a seasoned, sometimes battle-weary way, still smarting from the e-mail shellackings he’s received from hostile readers over the years. So in the form of a story — his own story — he responds, seeking to deepen the reader’s notion of what art is and fashion a new framework for considering the vexing questions art invariably raises.
Overstreet is most convincing in his effort to show evangelical readers that their traditional approach to art tends to impede both a rich experience of the goodness of God and a profound understanding of this present darkness. “If I think that by withdrawing I can get away from sin’s influence in the world, I forget that sin is active within my own walls and within my own heart,” he writes. He urges readers instead to more daringly embrace good art, whether Christian or not, as a means of expanding vision and enlarging wisdom, accepting “the sensual pleasure of God’s gifts” even as they take care to avoid the kind of exposure that may actually diminish their ability to taste goodness.
To this end, Overstreet gives layers of description of dozens of films, ranging from The Empire Strikes Back to Taxi Driver to Wings of Desire. It’s a clinic in art criticism. Through his earnest and illuminating instruction, we learn much about genre, sacramentality, cinematography, and more. His quest to “apprehend beauty wherever I can find it” is clearly an impassioned romance, one he longs to usher us into as well.
Overstreet’s achievement in this book is his winsome articulation of the magnificence of art and its irreplaceable part in a fully human life. With an enlarging vision of the story in which our art has unfolded, his criticism will cut through our enigmatic darkness with yet more light.