Through a Screen Darkly, a consideration of art, entertainment, and faith, was published by Regal Books in 2007.
Now, a book about pop culture by Martha Bayles bearing the same unlikely title has arrived here in 2014.
I’m going to take that as a compliment. I took the Bible verse that says we see the glory of God “through a glass darkly” and applied it to how we can see the glory of God on a big screen. And in the age of Google, you’d think that a publisher would bother to take the time to see if anybody else had already used a title for a book related to popular culture.
Apparently, Yale University Press couldn’t be bothered.
Whatever the case, I’m not here to waste time questioning the scope of other people’s imaginations. I’m here to celebrate. My memoir of dangerous moviegoing — Through a Screen Darkly — reached the respectable age of 7 years old on February 5! …
And it’s still going strong.
I continue to hear from students in film courses around the country, not to mention filmmakers and moviegoers.
And I’m already at work on a new book about film that will carry the ideas in Through a Screen Darkly even farther. I have to work on it during lunch breaks and vacations, since the tasks I’m assigned at my day job don’t leave room for this kind of work. But such is the life of most writers — if we want to write what we feel called to write, we have to take a steep and lonely road to make it happen.
As I’ve said before, I’m thankful to a lot of people who made this book possible. I’m even more thankful for those who are currently giving me opportunities to write and speak about these matters to new audiences. And I’m grateful to all who have written letters and testimonies in response to the book since its publication. Each one encourages me. Each one is a little more fuel in my tank to keep working. And, God willing, someday I’ll find the support to expand upon this project by teaching, speaking, and writing full-time.
If you’re interested in a copy of Through a Screen Darkly, you have the obvious option of buying it here or through your favorite bookseller.
Or, if you’d like a signed copy, just send me your contact information via email or a Comment (which I’ll keep to myself).
Normally, I’d leave it at that. But since the book is celebrating a birthday, I’d like to say a special thanks to the following people and publications that read, received, and responded with such encouragement and support. Here are some of the kind things they wrote…
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review:
“If viewing a film is to be a spiritual exercise, one must be open to conversion. Overstreet … leads readers through his own cinematic conversion in this compelling volume. Overstreet’s greatest gift is the masterful way he brings a spirit of discernment to the world of film. … Two thumbs up!”
Scott Derrickson, Writer and Director, The Exorcism of Emily Rose andThe Day The Earth Stood Still:
“Jeffrey Overstreet is a spiritual bloodhound, rabidly tracking the voice of God through his own experience of the history of cinema. In Through a Screen Darkly, he leads the way for all of us, demonstrating how we can look closer and experience the divine invasion of film for ourselves.”
Darren Aronofsky, director of Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain, in a message to the author (shared with permission):
“Inspirational…. Sometimes all of us forget that love for movies, that internal spark inside us that movies lit, and your book is going to remind many of us about it.”
Eugene H. Peterson, Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology, Regent College, author of The Message and Eat This Book:
“Jeffrey Overstreet is a witness. While habituating the dark caves of movie theaters, he gives articulate witness to what I too often miss in those caves — the contours of God’s creation and the language of Christ’s salvation. In these theaters, assumed by many to be unholy temples in a wasteland of secularism, he writes what he sees and hears. I find him a delightful and most percipient companion — a faithful Christian witness.”
Steven D. Greydanus, film critic, ChristianityTodayMovies.com, DecentFilms.com:
“[Overstreet] doesn’t just tell you whether or not he liked a movie. He offers you a seat next to him as the movie unfolds and he points out and reflects on the things that thrill, fascinate or trouble him. It’s an invitation not only to look more closely, but to ponder more deeply and appreciate more fully.”
Greg Wolfe, Publisher and Editor of Image; Author, Intruding Upon the Timeless: Meditations on Art, Faith and Mystery:
“Through a Screen Darkly constitutes a milestone in Christian reflection about contemporary film. This is not simply because it is full of insightful analysis and a generous, open spirit, but because its vision grows out of a passionate, personal journey. This is film criticism with a soul and a sense of urgency growing out of the conviction that faith and the imagination need one another — the better to open our eyes to the flickerings of God’s grace.”
“In this beautiful and incisive meditation on the art of film — at once memoir, manifesto and critical guide — Jeffrey Overstreet teaches us not only why film should matter to people of faith but how to see movies as vehicles for inspiration and, indeed, grace.”
Brett McCracken, Relevant Magazine:
“If you propose in academic or professional film circles the notion of ‘Christian film criticism’ as a serious discipline … you will probably be laughed off. Thankfully, we are taking steps to change that. A significant step in the right direction has come with the brand new book by Jeffrey Overstreet, Through a Screen Darkly…. Overstreet … has taken it upon himself to free Christian arts journalism from the ghetto and shackles of narrow-mindedness, utilitarianism and aesthetic ambivalence (as well as the flipside — aesthetic gluttony). His new book … gives hope to all of us who struggle for a more thoughtful, measured and empathetic Christian perspective toward cinema.”
Aspiring Retail Magazine:
“Like a machete-wielding soldier facing a jungle, Overstreet . . . cuts through the glamour of the silver screen to reveal deeper truths behind films both famous and little-known. … Overstreet’s grand tour of the entertainment industry is thoroughly enchanting, enlightening, absorbing. For many readers who were previously unfamiliar with him, the book will make him the reviewer of choice, the best source for what movies to see, what to avoid — and how to watch a movie.”
Eric Miller, Christianity Today book review:
“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. … 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.”
Dr. David Frisbie, at the award-winning Armchair Interviews site:
“Scarcely a few decades ago, the phrase ‘Christian movie reviewer’ might have seemed an oxymoron: entire denominations and churches shunned the theatre, believing it to be evil per se. Overstreet is a much-needed voice that helps postmodern Christians and others be fully engaged with their culture, yet move beyond its limitations to produce high-quality films.”
Mark Moring, Editor, ChristianityTodayMovies.com:
“Jeffrey Overstreet has taught me a great deal not just about how to watch movies, but also how to glean truth, beauty and redemption from films of all types — even those that aren’t necessarily comfortable to watch. I am learning the art of looking closer, and this book takes that art — and that education — to even deeper, and thus more rewarding, levels.”
Mark Shea, Senior Content Editor, CatholicExchange.com:
“God the Maker made us to be makers as well. That is why, as Chesterton said, ‘Art is the signature of man.’ Filmmaking is an art form that is the unique invention of the twentieth century. Nothing quite like it had ever existed before, and through it, millions have had powerful, even profoundly spiritual, experiences. Jeffrey Overstreet is a guide eminently qualified to show us how to see the way in which films both illumine the terrain of the human spirit and probe the eternal mysteries of God.”
Dick Staub, Author, Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters and The Culturally Savvy Christian:
“Jeffrey Overstreet understands the art of understanding art and believes it is too important a task to leave to the experts. Through a Screen Darkly is a trustworthy guide as you sort through the enriching, exhilarating, messy, dangerous and important business of loving God and film.”