Session 1
May 3, 2023
Session 2
May 10, 2023
Session 3
May 17, 2023
Session 4
May 24, 2023
Session 5
May 31, 2023
Session 6
Session 7
Session 8
Session 9
Session 10
Session 11
Session 12
Session 13
Session 14
Session 15
Session 16
Session 17
Session 18
Session 19
Session 20

Saturdays 13th May and 20th May, 1-5pm (optional screenings)

Online Course Details    

In this course we try to take film seriously – both by thinking about film as a medium, and thinking with particular films.

Sometimes the power of film consists in the way it transports us to imaginary worlds, giving them a uniquely realistic aura. But at other times, film seems to have the power to frame reality in a new way – allowing us to see our own, very ordinary world afresh. But both sides of the coin might have a distinctive power, and potential – whether for good or not. So in this course we will be thinking about film: considering these two contrasting features of film, and asking how we can reflect on our own film experience in a deeper way.

But we will also be thinking with film. For example: How do films engage with the problem of suffering – and what can we learn from this? What do we learn about the search for meaning from the films of the Coens, or Lynne Ramsay? What does Charlotte Well’s recent film Aftersun have to teach us about grief, memory and love? How do film endings invite us to hope, or shape our hopes? So we will wrestle with some of the most thoughtful, affecting films we have seen, and ask what they might be teaching, or showing us.

Week 1
Fantasy, reality and religion

The film theorist Siegfried Kracauer said that film has an almost religious function, and is the medium best suited to respond to modern alienation; ‘equipped top romote the redemption of physical reality’. To start the course we consider this claim, and reflect on the nature of film as a medium.

Week 2

Western films have often aimed to depict the discovery of meaning in life. But films have also conveyed the sense of meaninglessness with great power. We consider some notable examples of the search for meaning in film, and ask what it shows us about modern life.

Week 3
Love and attention

Films invite us to pay attention, and love is sometimes said to be made of attention: we pay attention to that which we love. How, then, do films shape our way of paying attention – both before and after the credits roll?


Week 4
Goodness and beauty

Films glamourise violence, and present us with seductive visions of depravity. At least, that’s a very old criticism of film. But is the opposite also true? Can films show us the beauty of goodness? In this session we explore the moral power and potential of film.


Week 5

At the end of a film, we are returned from the film-world to our own world. These moments can be tremendously powerful, but also disappointing or even frustrating. To finish the course we consider what film endings might teach us about our hopes.

The weekly sessions will be based around discussion of a series of film clips, plus some readings from film theorists, critics, philosophers and theologians. Alongside this, there will be two screenings on Saturday afternoons (13thand 20th May, 1-5pm), for those who can make it, where we will watch a couple of films together, and discuss them (film selection to be agreed by the group).



Below is a short list of films. If you have some extra time during this course, you might want to try to watch a few of them. It is not definitive in the slightest! These are mainly films that I have found thought-provoking in some way, and to which I might well refer in the sessions; a few of them (like Babette’s Feast) are films that are frequently referenced in some of the literature on theology and film. Some are deeply reflective or serious, others are fairly straightforward ‘genre’ films; some are explicitly religious, others invite a religious interpretation, or subtly—or unsubtly—make use of religious images or narrative structures.

*12 Years a Slave (McQueen, 2013)

Aftersun (Wells, 2022)

Babette’s Feast (Axel, 1987)

BlacKkKlansman (Lee, 2018)

Children of Men (Cuarón, 2006)

Dogville (Von Trier, 2003)

Goodfellas (Scorsese, 1990)

Gran Torino (Eastwood, 2008)

Jesus of Montreal (Arcand, 1989)

Le Fils/The Son (Dardennes, 2002)

Magnolia (Anderson, 1999)

Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese, 1973)

Melancholia (Von Trier, 2011)

Nil by Mouth (Oldman, 1997)

Mulholland Dr. (Lynch, 2001)

No Country for Old Men (Coens, 2007)

*Pan’s Labyrinth (Del Toro, 2006)

*Roma (Cuaron, 2018)

Rosetta (Dardennes, 1999)

Son of Man (Dornford-May, 2007)

Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976)

The Big Lebowski (Coens, 1998)

The Piano (Campion, 1993)

The Three Burials of Malquiades Estrada (Jones, 2005)

The Wrestler (Aronofsky, 2008)

You Were Never Really Here (Ramsay,2017)

*We Need to Talk about Kevin (Ramsay2011)

Zama (Martel, 2017)


* =available on Netflix at the time of writing


No items found.

No items found.

No items found.

No items found.


Dr Stuart Jesson

Stuart is the Theology Lead at LJC. He graduated with a degree in Literature and Theology from the University of Hull in 2000. From 2003-9 he studied Philosophical Theology part-time at the University of Nottingham, whilst continuing to work in the third sector with vulnerably-housed or homeless people, and young asylum seekers (as well as pulling pints in a pub). He was Lecturer at York St John University for almost a decade, before moving to London Jesuit Centre in 2021. He now lives in South East London, and spends as much time as he can in the woods.