Nina Butorac

INTERVIEW: The World Transparent

An Interview with Nina Butorac

Q. What motivated you to write this book?
A. The sacramental viewpoint holds that creation is a visible sacrament of God. This view has been lost in the clamor of our current culture wars. The World Transparent endeavors to guide the reader through the process of Christian formation by way of the virtues, of conscience, through the sacraments, and by grace, using modern film to illuminate these essential themes.

Q. How do the movies play a part in this formation?
A. The movies are used as modern day parables, to illustrate and make present the Christian themes underlying their art. A film like Death of a Salesman, for example, depicts the tragedy of the false self. A film like First Reformed can hit us sideways with the action of grace. These are not necessarily religious films, but they speak to a reality that is universal and, sacramentally speaking, saturated with the divine.

Q. Are these movie reviews?
A. Not at all! The films are used to illustrate the themes, and they are thoroughly examined for that purpose, the way we might examine a work of literature. In the past, when films were only seen once in the theatre, a review could only entice the reader to go to the show, without spoiling the experience with a lot of analysis. Now, when great films are as easy to pick up as a good book, we can spend some time on their meaning while turning the soil of their underlying themes.

Q. How many films do you examine?
A. I use forty films that draw out the major Christian motifs of fallenness, sin, grace, suffering, evil, sacrifice, and redemption.

Q. Can you name a few?
A. There are classics, like Anastasia, The Song of Bernadette, A Man for All Seasons, Becket, Captains Courageous, and All About Eve. Then there are modern films like Roma, First Reformed, Fargo, and The Kite Runner. I also use some magnificent foreign films, which are often overlooked; films like The Burmese Harp, Jean de Florette, and Ordet. I endeavor to bring it all home with Schindler's List, a truly epic film experience that solidifies all that the earlier films bespoke.

Q. What is your Christian perspective?
A. I am a Catholic, and I write from a perspective that is informed by St. Thomas Aquinas and influenced by Thomas Merton. But the Christian themes presented here are universal, and I use films from many different traditions, including those from the Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, and Islamic faiths.

Q. How can that be done?
A. It can be done when the focal point of every lens is centered on the truth. There is only one truth, but many perspectives. When every perspective is honest, wise, searching, and keen, the truth may well fall like over-ripened fruit into our waiting hands.

Nina Butorac is a Catholic writer and artist living in Seattle. As Outreach Director for her parish, she has taught classes on the Sacramental Imagination, Philosophy, Catholic Social Teaching, the Primacy of Conscience, and other Catholic curricula. Now retired, Nina dedicates her time to writing, painting, and advocacy for justice.