Sacrament of the Senses: A Review of Stealing Beauty
a film which is so obviously about sensuality also be about the spirit? Can a
work of art which celebrates sex also speak of the soul? Can anything as secular
as Stealing Beauty also be about the search for God?
movie as a case in point, the answer to these questions is obviously, “Yes!” Bernardo
Bertolucci has taken a script by novelist, Susan Minot, and placed it on film
with the brilliant assistance of cinematographer, Darius Khnodji. In so doing
he has created a film which evokes memories of La Dolce Vita and Lolita
as it tells the story of the 19 year old Lucy Harmon (played by Liv Tyler) who
comes of age during a period of several weeks one summer in Italy’s Tuscan countryside.
As the story unfolds Lucy emanates a sensuality that radiates throughout the little
artist colony where she is staying, ostensibly to pose for an artist who was once
a friend of her mother.
In fact, Lucy has traveled to Italy on a quest,
searching for the identity of her father and at the same time seeking her own
first love. It’s in this quest that we find the connection between the flesh and
the spirit. Familiar as most people in a western culture are with a view of God
as loving Father, it should not strain credibility too far to suggest that Lucy’s
struggle is, at bottom, for her own salvation. While the word God never enters
the narrative, this film is very much a piece of that culture which is built around
the notion that God is love. Of course this movie will not please those who believe
that “family values” consist of following a set of rules. In this film almost
every rule in the book is broken. And yet the beauty that is thus “stolen” in
this work of art comes ultimately from a source none other than the Creator of
heaven and earth.
You are invited to join our Forum
and discuss any issues
pertaining to faith or the search for it.
Your comments are published here instantly.
(To see the current list of
topics your browser must allow Active Content)
Please take a moment to let us know you
Just send us an email to subscribe to our free newsletter.
If you want to talk with someone in person, please feel free to call 212-864-5436
The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and
Executive Director of CrossCurrents.
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here. God and Science (Hypertext Edition,
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion: Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).
Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.