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books + arTicles



Lars von Trier's Cinema: Excess, Evil, and the Prophetic Voice


Book Description: This volume argues that spiritual conflict is the mechanism that unpacks the films’ notorious excess with explosive, centrifugal force. By confronting the spectator with spiritual conflict through evil, von Trier's films truthfully and prophetically expose the spectator’s complicity in personal and structural evil, forcing self-examination through theological themes, analogous to the prophetic voice of the transgressive Hebrew prophet Ezekiel, his prophecy, and its form of delivery. 


Routledge Scholar Review: “Other books may have looked at von Trier through the lens of religion, but none in so precise, thoroughgoing, and persuasive a manner….very much at the cutting edge of the field... Her Antichrist chapter should be a key touchpoint in any future writing.”


Journal article

“The Film that Helps Me Live Better: The Five Obstructions (Lars von Trier, 2003),” Image: Art, Faith, Mystery, no. 93, Summer, 2017, 66-68. 

Cited in Wikipedia, The Five Obstructions



“A Film Studies View: Let Movies Mirror Life, even if the Ending isn’t Neat.” Interview with Rebecca Ver Straten-McSparran by Kristi S. Hamrick. The Washington Times, 31 August 2016 [print] and 30 August 2016 [web].


Book Chapter

“Seeing Red: The Significance of Blood in Tarantino’s Oeuvre of Violence” Tarantino and Theology, Ed. Jonathan L. Walls, Los Angeles: Sideshow Media Group, 2015, 115-133.


Review in First Things:    These essays hunt for what Rebecca Ver Straten-McSparran calls a “Pieta Tarantino-style. . . In the particularly brilliant essay “Seeing Red,” Ver Straten-McSparran questions the common assumption that blood is an “empty pop icon” that splatters the screen without any transcendent meaning. She convincingly demonstrates that Tarantino presents blood as a complex symbol throughout his films, representing both life and death, suffering and redemption, the hatred of an enemy and the love of a mother. . . . ” - David J Davis



"Blackbird" photograph by Helgi Halldórsson, Reykjavík, Iceland, 2007. Wikimedia Commons

Princeton Lecture (published online)

“Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird: The Dark Side of Beauty,” Lectures on Youth and Culture, Princeton Theological Seminary, 2012.

Cited in Relevant Magazine, “Viewer Discretion Advised,” Brett

McCracken, 2012.

As Rebecca Ver Straten-McSparran suggested recently in a Princeton lecture on “The Dark Side of Beauty,” perhaps there is “a potent and necessary dark side to God’s beauty.” And out of this darkness, God reveals His truth. Ver Straten-McSparran...calls for a vision of art that includes “that combination of beauty, terror and grandeur.” She argues that “holy” cinema is not defined by beautiful cinematography and an inspiring story, but it is that which truly “peels” [Kartina Richardson] and jolts us. She says, “The truly holy requires us to pay attention, to struggle to grasp hold of it. It is difficult. It may be disturbing. It requires, oh dear … suffering?”

See interview + quotes from Princeton Lecture in McCracken's Gray Matters: Navigating the Space between Legalism and Liberty, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2013. 


Journal Article

“Andrei Tarkovsky: Cinema of the Holy,” SEEN Journal (CIVA): Matter + Spirit, vol 11 no. 1, 2011, 22-24.


Book Chapter

“Polanyi’s Personal Knowledge and Watching Movies,” Reframing Theology and Film: New Focus for an Emerging Discipline (Cultural Exegesis), ed. Robert K. Johnston, Grand Rapids: Baker Academics, 2007, 162-178. 

Filmography: see Film Consulting page

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