Through a Screen Darkly:
Looking Closer at Beauty, Truth and Evil in the Movies
by Jeffrey Overstreet
Regal Books, 340 pages, $17.99
Just in time for the Oscars, Jeffrey Overstreet treats us to a warm, even lush guide to film through Christian eyes. He weaves deft plot description and personal narrative into what he describes as "an invitation to journey." As a mainstay of Christianity Today's movies website (christianitytoday.com/movies) and the beneficiary of evangelical Protestant schooling from kindergarten through his college years, Overstreet knows his audience well. He confesses "a strange compulsion to sit down between Christian culture and secular society, trying to help them understand each otherand ultimately Godbetter through a shared experience of art." In this book, his voice speaks to the Christian side of that divide, even as his eyes are lit up by the other.
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 storyhis own storyhe 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 ...