Lately I’ve noticed I’m annoyed with the movie industry and dread going to see a film, knowing that it will have a cheap Hollywood happy ending, signature stars in the same old roles, or a lack of serious moral content. After reading “How Movies Helped Save My Soul,” by Gareth Higgins, I was ready to head to the video store with a list a mile long. His book impressively covers several “spiritual” topics, with each chapter describing movies that embody those themes. His writing style is rather witty and very stream of consciousness, which makes it a fun, light read, but can get monotonous at times. The final chapter is dedicated to “The Matrix,” the only such chapter dedicated to an entire film.
The most remarkable thing about the book is Higgins’ vast knowledge of film, from every era in film history. Each chapter notes both vintage and recent films that have influenced his life from a different spiritual perspective. I was taken aback at how many of the films in which I had completely missed their spiritual themes, or had dismissed them before viewing because I didn’t find them “morally acceptable.” His insight is remarkable, and his Christian background only complements, never hinders, how he describes the films. I was worried this book would bash the films that contained nudity, strong language, or violence, and praise the Disney genre filled with nice feel-good story lines. Instead, Higgins brings an objective view to the table, encouraging people to watch the films for the underlying message, no matter how hard it may be to watch. Such films he described that surprised me were Eyes Wide Shut, American Beauty, Fight Club, and Monster’s Ball. (All of which I would guess most Christian pastors would recommend us not seeing.) This book brought to my senses all that is of this world that Christians discount, especially in pop culture. Higgins’ book suggests that if they would just break out of their comfort zone and experience what is out there in film and elsewhere, they may be pleasantly surprised, and learn a bit about what God has to say in the meantime.