It may be valuable in the end to consider the opinions of an institution more powerful than this encyclopedia, more authoritative than this author: the Roman Catholic Church. Popular perceptions of the interrelationship of art and religion often focus upon the bans and boycotts instigated by organizations such as the Catholic League of Decency and highlighted by media that feed on the spectacle of protest and the identification of religion with "Thou shalt nots." The Vatican can commend as well as forbid, however. In 1995, to mark the centenary of cinema, it listed forty-five "Best Films" in three categories: "Religion," "Values," and "Art." The religious films were heterogeneous, ranging from Hollywood epics to films by Tarkovsky, though—as might be expected—Jesus and the saints comprise almost half of the main protagonists. Only Tarkovsky and Dreyer appeared twice in the "Religion" section; Bergman was restricted to the "Values" section, with The Seventh Seal (1957) and Smultronstället ( Wild Strawberries , 1957). The full list of religious films is: Andrey Rublyov ( Andrei Rublev , 1969), Babettes gæstebud ( Babette's Feast , 1987), Ben-Hur (1959), Francesco, giullare di Dio ( The Flowers of St. Francis , 1950), Francesco (1989), The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964), La Passion de Notre-Seigneur Jésus Christ ( Life and Passion of Christ , 1905), A Man for All Seasons (1966), The Mission (1986), Monsieur Vincent (1947), Nazarin (1959), The Word (1955), The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), The Sacrifice (1986), and Thérèse (1986). The list can be accessed, with comments, at www.nccbuscc.org/fb/vaticanfilms.htm. It may be significant that only three of these are set in the twentieth century (one only just: Nazarin , in 1905), reflecting the often embattled status of religion within the modernity of which cinema is a prime mediator.
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Babington, Bruce, and Peter William Evans. Biblical Epics: Sacred Narrative in the Hollywood Cinema. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1993.
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