Lights, Camera…Faith! The Ten Commandments REVIEW

Posted with the kind permission of the BC Catholic newspaper:

Movies and the Ten Commandments

By Paul Matthew St. Pierre

LIGHTS, CAMERA … FAITH! THE TEN COMMANDMENTS: A MOVIE LOVER’S GUIDE TO SCRIPTURE, by Rose Pacatte, FSP, and Peter Malone, MSC. Pauline Books and Media, paper CDN $40.50, USD $29.95. Orders: Canadian toll free no.: 1-800-668-2078, web site

This is the fourth book co-written by Rose Pacatte and Peter Malone in the media literacy series published by Pauline Books and Media. Each of the preceding volumes, all titled LIGHTS, CAMERA … FAITH: A MOVIE LOVER’S GUIDE TO SCRIPTURE, is designed to trace one year in the three-year liturgical cycle.

The series operates on two levels of media literacy: knowledge of the discourse of motion pictures, and knowledge of Scripture and Liturgy with an application to movie viewing.

It is based on the premise that Catholics and other Christians who are also movie-lovers may have a special faith-approach to their movie-viewing, and on the premise that Hollywood does produce a surprisingly high number of good and decent films.

This most recent volume in the series focuses on using one’s knowledge of the Ten Commandments to appreciate movies more and understand them better, and ON using movies to understand the Commandments better and to abide by them more assiduously.

For each Commandment, the authors recommend a short list of movies, write a synopsis of each of the movies and a commentary on it, discuss the film’s Scripture parallels, and offer remarks and ideas for reflection and further discussion.

Appropriately, Pacatte and Malone begin their study with a consideration of Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956), starring Charlton Heston, before addressing the individual Commandments and their corresponding films.

Each film entry is concise, precise, and accessible. It comprises a header with the film data and Scripture passages; a lucid two-page synopsis of the film; a cogent commentary on film with some attention to the director and actors involved; an insightful explanation of the Scripture passages with suggestions on how they might be applied to the film and with attention to key scenes and themes; some helpful points for reflection and discussion, which mostly cast a spotlight on readers/viewers themselves regarding what the film meant to them; a closing prayer on the theme of what the Commandments have revealed to readers/viewers in this unit of study; and, finally, some page-references for catechists who are using the book in conjunction with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The writing is good throughout the book. Pacatte and Malone know how to reach a general audience of movie-goers by not overselling their unusual pairing of subjects or promoting one over the other. Their selection of films is tasteful but comprehensive, and is designed less to preach to the converted than to promote discernment and judgement in movie-viewing.

I do have two suggestions to make. I think the series should be subtitled A Movie Lovers’ Guide to Scripture, rather than A Movie Lover’s Guide to Scripture, given that the series is designed for a general audience, not one person. In this volume when they write Roman Polanski’s “parents were interred in concentration camps” (128), they mean they were “interned.”