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This article explores, through the writings of French critic André Bazin, how cinema finds its roots in the capacity of documenting traces of the world and in the osmotic relationship between an event and its record. Due to its ontological status, photography echoes an incarnational and Christological model, and cinema becomes a spiritual mediator between the passage of time and the inevitability of death. Influenced by Gabriel Marcel’s approach to existentialism and by Emmanuel Mounier concept of proper orientation, Bazin wrote extensively about religious films, while also dedicating attention to those auterist movies that challenged him spiritually or that he did not fully comprehend a priori, either at a technical level or regarding their moral contents. At times discussions about film and religion imposed a structure of beliefs that limited the possibility of fully articulating cinema’s transformative power. The antidote to dogmatic views can be found in Bazin’s emphasis on active spectatorship and his awareness that, although cinema may embrace new technologies, abandoning and refashioning old ones, it is permeated by religious values that can be communicated through an aesthetic use of the medium. Fabrizio Cilento is a professor of film and digital media at Messiah University in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. He is the author of An Investigative Cinema: Politics and Modernization in Italian, French, and American Cinema, which explores the intersection between recent history and the aesthetics of moving images.

In “The Ontology of the Photographic Image”1 French critic André Bazin (1918–1958) argues that in a movie theater, with the lights turned off, we all dream the same dream. Thanks to its oneiric quality, film functions as a collective unconscious that fulfills a spiritual need to share a common reminiscence. Of course, this characteristic does not apply to cinema alone. At the origins of all visual arts there is a “mummy complex”2; that is, a psychological desire for humans to portray themselves in order to overcome death and triumph over time. What is peculiar about cinema, though, is that it provides a representation of the world through a mechanical reproduction of the material world itself. Unlike other visual arts that preceded it, such as painting and sculpture, the photographic image (on which cinema is based) does not simply imitate nature or resemble the world; it is the world. In a similar way, the mummy with its wrapping is not a portrayal of the dead person, it is the dead person.3 Or rather, photography stands for the world; by sublimating the desire to freeze the moment, it creates the effect of replacing the world even when the original and specific object that was registered from the world onto emulsions no longer exists. In this sense, the value of photography lies not just in its alleged objectivity, but rather in its capacity to inspire in the spectator an irrational credulity. As for cinema, it appears as the completion in time and movement of photography (which runs through a projector at a speed of 24 frames per second), and thus does not represent objects, it re-presents them.

“The Ontology of the Photographic Image” includes one illustration, a photograph of the Shroud of Turin, shot by Giuseppe Enrie (1931). The Shroud’s origin is similar to the photographic process of imprinting a trace. Although no one would question that, at a certain point, a wounded human being was in the Shroud, only its status as a sacred relic allowed some to assert that the man in the Shroud is Christ. Bazin’s case study of Christological ontology proves that, in theory, any photography appeals to belief the way the Shroud does. Both the automatic record produced by Enrie and the relic call for an act of faith, with repercussions in science and religion. One could say that a photograph is an absent presence, “an incarnational, and an exceptional image. Likewise, Christ is both a human and a divine being whose advent is unprecedented, revolutionary, and unrepeatable”.4

Bazin’s essay abruptly concludes with the enigmatic phrase: “On the other hand, of course, cinema is a language.”5 If cinema gains its power by stylizing reality, there is an imminent contradiction between an ontologically grounded cinema, based on a photographic imprint of the world, and the inherent limitations imposed by structuring it as a language, putting the emphasis on the representational artifice and technicality of the medium. Bazin is aware of this incongruity within his theory and recognizes that the richness of human experience cannot be portrayed by a photography-based medium (no matter how transparent it appears to be). His theories explore the oxymoronic nature of the slogan “representation of reality” and comment on its meanings in relation to the evolution of the language of cinema. Should these two poles collide one day, it would be the realization of cinema as a perfect simulacrum of reality in what he calls “The Myth of Total Cinema.”6 However, this would also be the end of cinema as we know it.

Nevertheless, the medium should not refrain from the responsibility of representing the world in all of its plenitude, even if doing so is impossible. Bazin’s theorem is to be considered in relation to the fundamental otherness of external reality, and human beings’ place within it. Due to its ontological status, photography echoes an incarnational and Christological model, and cinema becomes a spiritual mediator between the passage of time and the inevitability of death.

The Asymptote: Personalism and Christian Existentialism in Cahiers du Cinéma

Bazin is an interdisciplinary thinker influenced by the Catholic sacramental vision,7 based on the belief that the entirety of physical reality, being part of God’s creation, is infused with the presence of the sacred. As such, Bazin often engaged in the task of recomposing the fragmented pieces of a lost whole. This is a gradual process whose result would be to achieve a higher synthesis of knowledge that incorporates heterogeneous disciplines within a vision of the world enlightened by the Gospel.8 Bazin develops an analogous thought that keeps unfolding, without bringing theoretical closure to the questions he raises. Significantly, his most important collection of writings is entitled “What is Cinema?”9

While Parisian existentialism was in full swing, Bazin avoided the two extremes of everyday journalism and highbrow academic production and privileged the midcult mission of magazines such as Parisien Libéré, France Observateur, and Écran Francais, Temps Modernes, and Esprit. He disputed Jean-Paul Sartre’s (1905–1980) condemnation of Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941) as a pretentious film,10 and was influenced by Sartre’s rivals Gabriel Marcel (1889–1973; author of Homo Viator: Introduction to the Metaphysic of Hope and The Mystery of Being) and Emmanuel Mounier (1905–1950; author of Personalism, which contains the concept of proper orientation). Both Marcel and Mounier argue that, in order to have an impactful life, we should rely on our senses, intelligence, intuitions, and on the blend between scientific discoveries and artistic achievements. The latter augments our knowledge, testing our multiple encounters with the world. In discussing aesthetic issues, these philosophers made room for glimpses of revelation within the incomprehensibility of existence, even for moments of alleged grace.

By following the ramifications of Christian existentialism, Bazin revealed cinema’s unexpressed potential to his contemporaries. According to him, a true filmmaker attains his power through style, which is not a mere aesthetic expression, but an inner (or proper) orientation assisting an external search to adapt, master, and humanize nature. As an instrument of the quest for knowledge, the camera is able to record more than humans can perceive with their limited senses. In fact, the world’s ambiguity is a consequence of the human perception of it, not of creation, which is in itself perfect. Bazin thought about the art of filmmaking as an asymptote: the line in geometry that progressively approaches a curve and meets it only at infinity. There is no point in portraying something realistically unless it is to make it more evocative (in an abstract sense), helping us to discover the undiscovered and accept the opacity of the world.11

At the same time, Bazin did not deny cinema’s materiality and aimed to demystify the industrial process by providing viewers with the ability to dis- criminate among film genres. Only people able to understand the language of cinema could fully appreciate its moral contents. He wanted for the spectator to become aware of lighting, camera movements, mise en scène, editing, sound, narrative, performance, and direction. But criticism must also be able to individuate the psychological, sociological, and economic factors which have given us cinema as we know it.

Bazin disseminated his ideas in film communities he himself contributed to creating by giving lectures at ciné-clubs, school, factories, and by participating at formal and informal conferences. There were few like him who knew how to locate films, rent halls, obtain projectors, and publicize showings in the 1940s, during the years of the Occupation. Young people of all social classes would gather for the presentation of a film, and the discussion that followed. The first step, he felt, was to change the audiences’ notion of themselves from passive consumers to co-creators.

In order to achieve this goal, in 1951, together with writer and filmmaker Roger Leenhardt (1903–1985), Bazin launched the journal Cahiers du Cinéma. This hosted debates about the Hollywood system, revaluated film genres, literary adaptations, the documentary form, and raised the prestige of cinema as art.12 From this rush to criticism, cinephilia, and commitment to spiritual values emerged an interest toward film practice, and vice versa, Cahiers served as an apprenticeship for the

Figs. 1–2. “Cameo” appearances of Cahiers du Cinéma in Godard’s Breathless (1960) and To Live One’s Life (1962).

Fig. 3. Truffaut’s dedication at the beginning of The 400 Blows (1959).

generation of French New Wave (1959–1964) directors, with editors such as Jean-Luc Godard (1930–2022), François Truffaut (1932–1984), Jacques Rivette (1928–2016), Claude Chabrol (1930–2010), and Éric Rohmer (1920–2010). In turn, these filmmakers paid homage to Bazin and his journal in their films (figs. 1, 2, 3).

In Cahiers, Bazin wrote extensively about Sergei Eisenstein (1898–1948), Charlie Chaplin (1889–1977), John Ford (1894–1973), Carl Dreyer (1889–1968), and Federico Fellini (1920–1993), among others, launching the so-called auteur theory. This poses human creativity at the center of the cinematic art, identifying the director as a central creative figure of a film and criticism as an attempt to reconstruct the artist’s vision, searching for visual and thematic patterns across a career. Such approach is personalist, arguing that a director’s universe is comprehensible through observation, and also existential, since directors are free to construct their own universe through film.

Bazin would pass on to his disciples at Cahiers du Cinéma the belief that art proceeds by means of artists transforming the given style of their time into a transcendent vision. Yet, he acknowledged the popular quality of cinema, its status as an entertainment form, and, above all, the genius of the Hollywood system, which allowed iconoclastic authors such as Alfred Hitchcock (1899–1980) and Orson Welles (1915–1985; to whom Bazin dedicated a monographic study)13 to flourish within itself. He also appreciated the provocative subtexts of United States genres such as Classic Film Noir and the Western, as well as the pure cinematic quality of the B movies produced by Monogram Pictures. While Bazin opposed Hollywood cultural hegemony during the Cold War, he was always careful not to demonize the greatest source of cinematic creativity in the world. For in Hollywood, art becomes a celebration of the industry, but also, industry celebrates art in an endless game of reverberations.

A Phenomenology of Sainthood: Heaven Over the Marshes and Diary of a Country Priest

In Bazin’s writings, the relationship between cinema and religion works on a double binary. On the one hand, he introduces religious topics into his responses to secular films, on the other, he develops sociological arguments out of religious films. In “Cinema and Theology”14 he recognizes that cinema has been interested in God since its early origins, and maps religious films by dividing them in three categories: biblical adaptations, hagiographies of the saints, and films about church professionals experiencing doubt. The first category goes from Cecil B. DeMille’s trilogy The Ten Commandments (1923), King of Kings (1927), and The Sign of the Cross (1932) to movies of his time such as Quo Vadis? (Mervyn LeRoy, 1951); the second includes silent masterpieces such as the Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928) and more recent examples such as The Flowers of Saint Francis (Roberto Rossellini, 1951); the third includes comedy-dramas such as Leo McCarey’s Going My Way (1944) and The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945), Boys Town (Norman Taurog, 1938), and Angels with Dirty Faces (Michael Curtiz, 1938). Then he continues by opening philosophical issues. What movies are aesthetically pleasing (in terms of their visual achievements) and also contrast moral and spiritual depravity with moral and spiritual virtue in order to aid us in making our own lives more Christian? Bazin proceeds negatively, and castigates those movies that employ their Catholic imaginary as a décor, exploiting its ‘immediately visible’ choreographic rituals:

The history of religious themes on the screen sufficiently reveals the temptations one must resist in order to meet simultaneously the requirements of cinematic art and of truly religious experience. Everything that is exterior, ornamental, liturgical, sacramental, hagiographic, and miraculous in the everyday observance, doctrine, and practice of Catholicism does indeed show specific affinities with

Figs. 4–5. The religious transcendence of Maria Goretti (Ines Orsini) in Heaven Over the Marshes (Augusto Genina, 1949) and of Claude Laydu in Diary of a Country Priest (Robert Bresson, 1951).

the cinema considered as a formidable iconography. But these affinities, which have made for the success of countless films, are also the source of the religious insignificance of most of them. Almost everything that is good in this domain was created not by the exploitation of these patent affinities, but rather by working against them: by the psychological and moral deepening of the religious factor as well as by the renunciation of the physical representation of the supernatural and of grace.15

On the contrary, Bazin appreciates Heaven over the Marshes (Augusto Genina, 1949) because it rejects traditional iconography. Genina’s film observes the circumstances that led to the canonization of Maria Goretti (1890–1912; played by Ines Orsini; see fig. 4) and maintains an alleged objectivity through a non-interventionist direction, providing social references to the rural environment in which the martyrdom of the young peasant took place.

Differently from most hagiographic movies, Genina (who won the Nastro d’Argento for Best Director at the Venice Film Festival) does not allow us to immediately identify with the protagonist or to foresee her destiny and final spiritual uplifting. He portrays the unfolding of a perceptual, subjective process based on change, displacement, and discovery in regard to her relations with other characters. Thus, sainthood is not an element that one can take for granted, but is only conferred toward the end of the film, after Goretti forgives her murderer in the midst of atrocious suffering. This opens some complex theological questions such as retroactive eternal salvation (after the individual’s death, granted on the basis of facts and actions), since the saint does not exist as such in the present tense of the film, for most of which we observe a humble girl living her everyday life.

Genina employs techniques popularized by Italian neorealist directors in the immediate postwar period (which Bazin had previously championed), such as shooting on location and the use of natural lighting, deep focus and long takes, a mix of professional and non-professional local actors that speak in dialect and at times are allowed to improvise on the screenplay, a grainy black and white photography, and an open-ended narrative. Thanks to these choices, the characters emerge from the Pontine marshes in the outskirts of Rome—a land of suffering in which feudal landowners and rapacious middlemen have replaced absent institutions. Yet, even in this apparently unredeemable environment, pure souls like that of Goretti manage to levitate from misery and violence to connect with a ubiquitous God.

For similar reasons (the minimalist approach to filmmaking, the stylistic precision), Bazin appreciates Diary of a Country Priest (Robert Bresson, 1951). The protagonist’s (Claude Laydu) encounters with mystical events such as the vision of the Blessed Virgin or the struggle with the Angel of the Lord are not ostensibly revealed but rooted in the everyday life of the small and hostile parish of Ambricourt, France. The main reason for the villagers’ resentment is social envy since they perceive their spiritual leader as a privileged subject who never had to struggle to survive as they did. They ignore that the young curé suffers from severe pain caused by stomach cancer and feels deserted by God; during his sleepless nights he experiences the divine as mounting doubt and in its absence. Yet, the cross in his room (see fig. 5), which at the end of the film takes upon the whole cinematic screen, becomes a reminder of the presence of God, and that ethical choices can still be embraced within the struggling agricultural community of believers. The cross helps the priest transcend his physical pain and move toward a spiritual redemption. During the last moments of his life, he recognizes that only human beings can allow God’s love to manifest itself in this world, by changing their attitude toward each other. Bazin’s review of this work represents another meditation on sin, the human soul, the transcendence of divine grace, and eternal salvation. Diary of a Country Priest, he writes, “is a film in which the only incidents, the only movements are those of the life of the spirit. It also offers us a new dramatic form, that is specifically religious—or better still, specifically theological; a phenomenology of salvation and grace”.16

Entering in the realm of speculation, I believe that Bazin would also have appreciated the ‘naturalistic’ ways in which Pier Paolo Pasolini portrayed the miracles of Jesus in The Gospel According to Matthew (1964), through extreme close-ups, emphasizing the eye through literally following Matthew’s stylistic accelerations and his chronological and elliptical jumps. As Pasolini wrote in an unpublished poem echoing Bazinean themes, in his movie he aimed to deliver:

An idea of Christ
That precedes every style, every twist of history,
every fixation, every development; virgin
reality reproduced with reality: without
a single echo of poetry or painting;
I want not only to be unaware of Dante, or Masaccio
or Pontormo, who have long dominated
my eyes, my heart,
my senses: I do not even want
to know language and painting.
I want this Christ to appear as did Christ in reality.17

The film eschews psychological analysis and works by subtraction, displaying the dual substance and the spiritual turmoil of Jesus, for whom God remains an enigmatic and at times inscrutable other.

In 1957 Bazin dedicated his last energies to a documentary project on the Romanesque churches of the Saintonge region in France: the vital abodes of his childhood. These small churches attracted Bazin because nature has taken upon them, and thus, their architecture has lost its original purpose over the centuries. What is left is an organic relationship between building, human beings, and nature, which transcends the categories of art and of religion. The tone Bazin uses is similar to that he used when he wrote about cinema. Their earthiness motivated him, as did their estrangement from the high art and the professed religion of the past. Bazin suggests that these underappreciated ruins overgrown by vegetation and shadowed by the more spectacular Romanesque churches of the Burgundy area, reward us with revelations about the world and our place in it.18

Due to his precocious death from leukemia at the age of forty, Bazin did not finalize this documentary. He was also unable to see what he had sown blossom: the worldwide success of the French New Wave cinematic movement (represented at its best by the editors of Cahiers du Cinéma, once they paralleled film criticism with film production), along with the spreading of the idea of a cinema that reflects the vision of the director. The fact that Bazin disappeared just a few months before Truffaut’s 400 Blows triumphed at the Cannes Film Festival and Godard’s Breathless became a planetary sensation is also an integral part of the construction of his myth, of his own absent presence.

Toward a Cultural Ecology: Bazin in the New Millennium

Bazin taught us that movies can serve not only as tools to reflect on fundamental values, but also as catalysts that elevate audiences to a higher dimension. Following his heritage, Robert K. Johnson from Fuller Theological Seminary revealed that he experienced moments of spiritual ecstasy and a joyful revelation of his vocation in a movie theatre, while watching Peter Glenville’s Becket (1964). Such epiphanies are also shared by many of his colleagues and students while watching disparate movies, including those that combine the sacred and the profane. According to Johnson, the difficulty of articulating such moments or even the tendency to suppress them in a grip of embarrassment comes from a more general disconnect between God and the world, since “Christians have typically downplayed the importance, the significance, of God’s self-revelation through creation, conscience, and culture, finding in such experiences at best a mere echo of the divine presence.”19

Bazin was precocious in perceiving the shortcomings of a too-narrow focus on revelation. He was interested in the issue of how to construct an inclusive spiritual hermeneutic of all moving images, which in turn are shadows of a life in which we happen to exist, wondering in what way characters and stories shown on screen are a reflection on the world. To answer such a question means to talk about God, as a foundation and direction of being, waiting for the moment in which the mystery behind moving images may begin to reveal itself. This approach brought Bazin and his disciples at Cahiers to watch ‘religiously’ almost everything that featured at the movie theatres, often identifying spiritual values in films that do not display it immediately. Other significant voices in Christian scholarship have come to support this view, arguing that divine revelation can be found not only in movies that include edifying content (which remain crucial), but also in those that, without explicit references to religion, still challenge us in a transformation of form and style, and in doing so reveal something initially difficult to perceive and to accept.20

The argument that a filmmaker attains his power through style, infusing his inner life into the celluloid, is a leitmotif of articles written by Bazin and his disciples on Cahiers du Cinéma. However, rather than engaging in film analysis and grounding movies in their historical context, Christians often mine them for insight, extrapolating pre-constituted salvation messages from cinema. Crystal Downing provides an extensive list of such texts, from Robert Jewett’s Saint Paul at the Movies to J. Stephen Leng’s Bible on the Big Screen.21 Concerned with the contents, they refrain from the materiality of the medium, ignoring its artistry.

Doesn’t pleasure come from how cinematic images appear on the screen: an artistry worthy of contemplation? . . . Unfortunately, most who extract religious and theological insights from movies ignore such techniques, only rarely employing the basic cinematic vocabulary that identifies how viewers see what they see. That’s like writing a book on Buddhism without using key terms like bodhisattva and dharma. It can be done, of course, but much is left out about the medium of salvation. Similarly, theologians who would disdain any scholarly book about the Trinity that does not mention Christian theorists like Tertullian or Augustine often ignore influential film theorists when writing about theology incarnated in film.22

In light of this, Bazin’s discourse on the morality of style can still be crucial in the emancipation of Christian scholarship from provincial and predictable terrains.

Cinema is an everchanging medium and there is no ultimate essence to it.

Bazin remains a privileged interpreter of what cinema was, and what continues to be, even in the disorienting media landscape we inhabit today. Being born in the 1970s, I have had the privilege to engage with film during the age of its transition from the classic celluloid form to the current process of digitization, when Bazin’s question, ‘What is cinema?’ has taken on a renewed resonance for the understanding of both the history and the future of the medium. The impact of this aesthetic shift has been enormous, and can only be compared to the advent of sound in the late 1920s and of color and new screening formats in the 1950s. Bazin began addressing old technologies of his time when they were “new,” including the first 3D experiments, Cinerama, Cinemascope, and above all television, exploring how these items can continue to capture human experience.23 For this reason, it is possible to analyze his writings on realism in the light of the most recent technological changes. Bazin’s ontological idea of moving images can still be obtained in the digital environment, as for example in new digital documentaries, one of the most vibrant genres in contemporary cinema (possibly a reaction to the abuse of special effects and computer generated, and thus non-ontologically grounded, images). They are also obtained through omnipresent surveillance cameras, or the single-take of a smartphone to be streamed or uploaded online or shared via social networks. In order to find Bazin’s heritage, we need to think about the art not only in terms of film, but also moving images at large.

After his disappearance in 1958, Bazin was marginalized from the realm of film studies for almost two decades. He was marked as a naïve Catholic as a consequence of the rise of structuralism and post-structuralist theories, when the intellectual life took refuge in the theorization of the “death of the man.”

Figs. 6–7. “The Holy Moment.”

However, today he is recognized as a sophisticated advocate of an ontologically grounded illusionism.24 For example, he is mentioned in Richard Linklater’s Waking Life (2001; see fig. 6–7). In a sequence, a cineaste evokes Bazin’s religious idea of the world, contrasting it with the state of contemporary cinema. He argues that film delivers the sanctity of everyday life: “The ontology of film is about a particular guy at a moment in that space. For Bazin the Christian, film is like a record of God or of the face of God or of the ever-changing face of God’s manifestations.”

The filmmaker portrays Bazin as a sort of Saint Francis of cinematic modernism.25 However, as Dudley Andrew remarks, “Bazin never used the term ‘Holy Moment,’ but he rather aspired to be a naturalist in the realm of culture (or a cultural ecologist)”.26 Despite this, Linklater’s tribute captures the spiritual tension of Bazin, and the faith in God and the screen Bazin is able to transmit to new generations of artists.

Ironically, “The Holy Moment” is rendered in a rotoscope animation (a technique that is grounded in real life, in which the images are digitally filmed and then animated). Consequently, in Waking Life we are dealing with a ‘squared’ reproduction of reality. This is evidence of how Bazin’s dialectic between the visible and the invisible, or that between the real and the imagined, is still at work in the new millennium. As Philip Rosen wrote:

For Bazin, the cinematic apparatus is inseparable from a relation to something exterior to its technology. In the “Ontology” essay, this exteriority amounts to the worldly entities registered by the camera. The very nature of cinema, then, is precisely not to be something in and for itself, but to be constituted in relation to something outside itself. This would mean that cinema history and even cinematic specificity necessarily include the non-cinematic.27

The more technology grows, solving old problems while creating new ones, the more film scholars feel the need to find values that cannot be reduced to machinery fetishism. For this reason, the relationship between cinema and religion may grow in importance, and continues to evolve through encounters with the world, allowing us to move beyond a simplistic representation of it.

In spite of the marginalization of Bazin from the academic environment, his influence over film production has been and continues to be inestimable. With his unorthodox Christianity, his social consciousness, and his interest in arts and science, Bazin transformed the ways in which we think about cinema. He gave the medium a sense of destiny, showed its social function emerging from archetypical necessities, and discussed the evolution of film style over various decades. Robert Bresson (1901–1999), Luis Buñuel (1900–1983), Roberto Rossellini (1906–1977), and Jean Renoir (1894–1979) conceived their mature works with his ideas in mind, aiming to shoot movies that would challenge his sensibility. Furthermore, from the 1960s on, a wave of global New Waves (modeled on the French one) transformed cinema in Japan, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, the USSR, Latin America, the United Kingdom, China, Iran, and Romania.

I have explored how cinema finds its roots in its technical capacity to record traces of the world and in the existence of an osmotic relationship between an event and its cinematic record. Bazin wrote extensively about religious films, while also dedicating attention to those auterist movies that challenged him spiritually or that he did not fully comprehend a priori, either at a technical level or regarding their moral contents. At times discussions about film and religion imposed a structure of beliefs that limited the possibility of fully articulating cinema’s transformative power. The antidote to dogmatic views can be found in Bazin’s emphasis on active spectatorship and his awareness that, although cinema that may embrace new technologies, abandoning or refashioning old ones, it is permeated by religious values that can be effectively communicated through an aesthetic use of the medium.

Cite this article
Fabrizio Cilento, “Cinema Has Not Yet Been Invented: André Bazin’s Christ-Based Ontology of Moving Images”, Christian Scholar’s Review, 52:2 , 7 – 20


  1. André Bazin and Hugh Gray, “The Ontology of the Photographic Image,” Film Quarterly 13, no. 4 (1960): 4–9.
  2. André Bazin, What is Cinema? Vol.1 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 9.
  3. David Bordwell, On the History of Film Style (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997), 71.
  4. Angela Dalle Vacche, André Bazin’s Film Theory: Art, Science, Religion (Oxford: Ox- ford University Press, 2020), 21.
  5. Bazin, What is Cinema? Vol. 1, 17.
  6. Bazin, What is Cinema? Vol. 1, 17–22.
  7. For the Catholic intellectual tradition see Douglas Jacobsen and Rhonda Jacobsen, Scholarship and Christian Faith: Enlarging the Conversation (Oxford University Press, 2004), 102–107; Michael, J. Himes, “‘Finding God in all Things’: A Sacramental Worldview and Its Effects,” in As Leaven in the World: Catholic Perspectives on Faith, Vocation, and the Intellectual Life, ed. Thomas Laundy (Franklin, WI: Sheed and Ward, 2001), 91–104.
  8. See Jacobson and Jacobson, Scholarship and Christian Faith, 10, for more about Ernest Boyer’s (1928–1995) heterogeneous thinking, which presents a definite Catholic element. Following Boyer’s lesson, several essayists emphasize concepts such as wholeness and integration.
  9. André Bazin, What is Cinema? Vols. 1 & 2 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005).
  10. André Bazin, and Hervé Joubert-Laurencin, Écrits complets (Paris: Macula, 2018), 240–242.
  11. Dudley Andrew, André Bazin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978), 100–101.
  12. For a collection of the most significant articles, see the anthologies edited by Jim Hillier, Cahiers du Cinéma. The 1950s: Neorealism, Hollywood, New Wave (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985); and New Wave, New Cinema, Reevaluating Hollywood (Cam- bridge: Harvard University Press, 1986).
  13. André Bazin, Orson Welles: A Critical View (New York: Harper & Row, 1979).
  14. André Bazin, “Cinema and Theology: The Case of Heaven Over the Marshes,” trans. and ed. Bert Cardullo, Journal of Religion and Film, 6 no. 2 (2002).
  15. Bazin, What is Cinema? Vol.1, 1.
  16. Bazin, What is Cinema? Vol. 1, 136.
  17. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Lettere, trans. Fabrizio Cilento (Milan: Einaudi, 1986).
  18. Andrew, André Bazin, 206.
  19. Robert K. Johnston, God’s Wider Presence: Reconsidering General Revelation. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), xvi.
  20. Ronald Austin, “Screening Mystery: The Religious Imagination in Contemporary Film,” Image 20 (1998): 4; Craig Detweiler, Into the Dark: Seeing the Sacred in the Top Films of the 21st Century. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academy, 2008), 1–19.
  21. Robert Jewett, Saint Paul at the Movies: The Apostle’s Dialogue with American Culture (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1993); J. Stephen Lang, The Bible on the Big Screen: A Guide from Silent Films to Today’s Movies (Ada, MI: Baker Books, 2007).
  22. Crystal Downing, Salvation from Cinema (New York: Routledge: 2015), 7–9.
  23. Fifty-seven of his reviews and essays addressing these technologies are collected in André Bazin, André Bazin’s New Media (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2014).
  24. See Dudley Andrew and Hervé Joubert-Laurencin, Opening Bazin: Postwar Film Theory and Its Afterlife (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), which commemorates the 50th anniversary of Bazin’s death.
  25. In the January 1959 issue of Cahiers du Cinéma, Truffaut painted a portrait of Bazin as a man who “lived in total purity in a world that was itself purified though its contact with him . . . he was the one who destroyed the ridiculous rift that separated the cinema of the critic and that of the filmmaker.” François Truffaut, “It was Good to be Alive,” in The 400 Blows, ed. David Denby (New York: Grove, 1969), 190. However, Antoine De Beaque on Cineaste revealed the more combative qualities of Bazin: the stammerer, the anxious, and the hot-tempered polemicist. Antoine De Beaque, “André Bazin in Combat,” Cineaste 36, no. 1 (2010): 14. Bazin initiated the major critical disputes of its times about the Hollywood period of Hitchcock, the relationship between Soviet Cinema and the French Communist critics (against the aligned George Sadoul), “neoformalism” (against his own editorial board at Cahiers), and, as we have seen, film and religion.
  26. Dudley Andrew, What Cinema Is! Bazin’s Quest and Its Charge (Chichester, West Sussex, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), 7.
  27. Andrew and Joubert-Laurencin, Opening Bazin, 111.

Fabrizio Cilento

Fabrizio Cilento is a professor of film and digital media at Messiah University in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. He is the author of An Investigative Cinema: Politics and Modernization in Italian, French, and American Cinema, which explores the intersection between recent history and the aesthetics of moving images.