Religions (Mar 2016)

Syncopated Beats and the History of Sadness: The Affective Fusion of Audience and Film through Music

  • Kutter Callaway

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 7, no. 4
p. 36


Read online

Recent developments in the disciplines of cinema studies, theology, and religion and film have generated renewed interest in the experiential dimensions of filmgoing. More specifically, those contributing to theological scholarship have begun to explore these cinematic experiences as theologically significant. With these developments in mind, this essay offers a close reading of the principal musical theme in the 2010 film Beginners, noting in particular the ways in which this music is distributed throughout the narrative. In doing so, it suggests that the music in this film expresses in concrete terms one of the key insights from emerging neuropsychological research, namely, that our affective, pre-cognitive, “wordless knowledge” of the world is the foundation upon which human consciousness is constructed. But the essay goes one step further by making an explicitly theological claim. That is, when located within the framework of a lived theology (i.e., a “poetic theology”), the film and its music shed light on the ways in which aesthetic modes of awareness (i.e., intuitive, embodied forms of knowledge) open up spaces in the contemporary world where our affections, the goods of late-modern society, and our spiritual longings are able to meet and interact.