What makes a movie “spiritual?”

movies1For many years now Chameli and I have enjoyed a special moment in our month, when an envelope arrives containing a single DVD. It generally contains a feature film, a documentary, and occasionally a few shorts, chosen not for their popularity or celebrity status, but for their ability to transform and awaken us. The Spiritual Cinema Circle was founded in 2004 by Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks, Arielle Ford and Stephen Simon. It is something like Netflix meets Esalen.

I have had some interesting talks over the last years with Gay and Kathlyn, and more recently also with Stephen Simon about what it is that makes a movie “spiritual.” I am delighted to tell you, there are no absolute conclusions. As you may know from the Translucent Revolution (which of course you have read cover to cover, right?!) my favorite all time translucent movie was Alan Ball’s American Beauty, which won five Oscars in 2000. You can read (or re-read) my critique of that film in the blog below this one.american_beauty1American Beauty is not a feel-good, love and peace, happily ever after film. The protagonist, played by Kevin Spacey, is murdered at the end of the film by a semi-psychotic ex-marine. This is a film portraying dysfunction, alienation, and a pervasive degree of hopelessness. Yetthere is something about this film, and many like it, that transforms not the content of our experience, but our relationship to our experience. It does not change our experience from feeling bad to feeling good, but instead manages to shift us to a deeper dimension of ourselves, and of reality. The sub title of the film is “look closer.” Other examples of this kind of art, different in content, but widely appreciated as translucent in vision, are Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Roberto Benigni’s “Life is Beautiful” and Mike Leigh’s Secrets and Lies.

Of course my view is not the only view on what makes cinema “spiritual.” Another view, equally valid, is that we are all already too steeped in darkness, and what we need is more light, more healing and more “good vibes.”

I want to hear from you on this topic. Post me a comment below.

What is your list on the five most “spiritual” or “translucent” films you have ever seen?

Then please join me for a free tele-seminar this Thursday with myself and Stephen Simon, the founder of the Spiritual Cinema Circle, the producer of 20 movies, and the director of “Indigo” and “Conversations with God.” On this call you will hear Stephen and myself each share our list of the five most “spiritual films,” ( our lists are totally different, by the way!). There will also be lots of opportunity to ask questions and share your insights. Register here.

If you’d like to try out the Spiritual Cinema Circle, they have offered my friends  ( that’s you!) a free trial membership.  To check it out please look to the right of this post under my “blog roll” where you will see a link to SCC.

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9 Responses to “What makes a movie “spiritual?””

  1. Susan Jones September 1, 2009 at 1:45 pm // Reply

    “When a Man Loves a Woman” w/ Meg Ryan
    “The Scent of a Woman” w/ Al Pacino
    “Pretty Woman” w/ Julia Roberts
    “Benny and Joon”

    All address “what is real” and the games we play in lieu of “reality”…also taking a stand for who we are, even against the flow.


  2. Jivan September 2, 2009 at 7:08 am // Reply

    *Why Did Bodhidharma Go East?.
    Took 10 years to make, no professional actors – just local people…

    Cohen brother’s work…

    *Zeitgeist x 2!



  3. Mark September 2, 2009 at 7:31 am // Reply

    Groundhog Day: because it portrays our actual condition in spacetime

    Life of Brian: because it shows the folly and humor of cultism

    Donnie Darko: because it is a story of true sacrifice, even in the midst of confusion and fear

    Dark City: because it shows what we can be capable of as we come into our true power

    Koyaanisqatsi: because it gives the viewer a palpable sense of the world we live in with no spoken words to hide our real issues


  4. marionmeloni September 2, 2009 at 12:39 pm // Reply

    “In the heat of the night”
    – because it shows that we can come to respect each other.

    “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”
    – because it shows how to deal with mendacity.

    “Once Upon a Time in the West”
    – long, slow scenes in which there is very little dialogue and little happens – a masterpiece ..

    “Out of Rosenheim”
    – because it shows, that we can liberate ourself from the daily routine and make a new start

    and last not least another masterpiece
    ….play it again, Sam…..
    “Casablanca” – because of the fantastic Dialogue at the Airport….:-)

    these movies and many many more – have given me inspiration – touched my heart and kissed my soul



  5. Connie September 2, 2009 at 1:01 pm // Reply

    The Sea Inside – what we are beyond the body
    The Garden – community taking a stand
    Happy-Go-Lucky – how we perceive ourselves in contrast with how we are perceived
    The Green Mile – awakening to the possible
    Monsoon Wedding – visually beautiful
    Love, Actually – just because!


  6. Alexander Gottwald September 2, 2009 at 1:12 pm // Reply

    First I’d like to mention, that Mark’s list contains five of my alltime favourites … In order to mention some other amazing movies, I’d like to add

    Peter Chelsom’s “Hear my Song”, Martin Scorcese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ”, Josef Rusnak’s “13th Floor”, Adam Shankman’s “Hair Spray” and Sophia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation”.


  7. Luke September 3, 2009 at 12:16 am // Reply

    There has been a few recently that have stood out to me. Not sure if they are are really Translucent films but my interpretation gave them some meaning…

    1.Slumdog Millionaire – the main character’s intention created things to become in sync for him
    2.The Watchmen – symbolically we are letting go of the old and entering into a new stage of development
    3.The Razor’s Edge(1946) – a great example of someone becoming ‘awake’
    4.Groundhog Day
    5.The Matrix


  8. Jacqueline September 4, 2009 at 11:16 pm // Reply

    Hi Arjuna,

    Ascending Humanity (by Barbara Marx Hubbard) I can’t wait to see the next part ‘Visions’

    Seven Years in Tibet
    The Green Mile
    Forrest Gump
    What the bleep do we know
    Tibetan book of the dead

    and many more documentary movies about the lifes of;
    Franciscuss from Assisi
    Neale Donald Walsch
    Thich Nhat Hahn

    and also looking forward to watching the new Renee Scheltema movie; Something unknown, is doing we don’t know what.


  9. real psychics January 30, 2010 at 3:39 am // Reply

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