07: FATHER ROBERT SPITZER, SJ, ON WHY MYTHS EXPLAIN HOLLYWOOD HITS


Did you ever wonder why certain movies resonate with audiences all over the world? Why some grab you for two hours in the dark, but then like so much cinematic MSG, you forget these flash-in-the-pans by the time you get to the car – while others hold you in their spell for years?

This is the mystery I explore with Father Robert Spitzer, SJ, president of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith in Irvine, CA. Digging into a fascinating section of his book The Soul’s Upward Yearning: Clues to Our Transcendent Nature from Experience and Reason, Father Spitzer and I talk about the Power of Myth at work in four of the top movie franchises of Hollywood history: Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and The Chronicles of Narnia films.

Turns out, these examples all share certain common elements that invite the viewer (or reader, if the book) into an adventure that forces a choice, a crisis, which leads ultimately a catharsis, or cleansing of the soul. But, as is his wont, the Jesuit scholar goes deeper than the platitudes about nice music and great dialogue. You’ll learn about Rudolf Otto and the numinous, Carl Jung and archetypes, Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey, and Mircea Eliade and mythical structure.

I know, I know, it this sounds too deep for mere mortals. Give it a chance. Stretching a bit mentally pays handsome dividends, including a new appreciation for what makes great movies great.

 

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