Martin Scorsese on Spirituality In the Cinema (1995)

“When we talk about personal expression I’m often reminded of [Elia] Kazan’s film America America – the story of his uncle’s journey from Anitolia to America; the story of so many immigrants who came to this country from a very, very foreign land. I kind of identified with it and was very moved by it. Actually, I later saw myself making this same journey, but not from Anitolia. Rather from my own neighborhood in New York, which was in a sense a very foreign land. I made the journey from that land to movie-making, which was something unimaginable. Actually, when I was a little younger, there was another journey I wanted to make. It was a religious one. I wanted to be a priest. However, I soon realized that my real vocation – my real calling – was the movies. I didn’t really see a conflict between the church and the movies, the sacred and the profane. Obviously, there are major differences. But I could also see great similarities between a church and a movie house. Both are places for people to come together and share a common experience, and I believe there is a spirituality in films, even if it’s not one that can supplant faith. I find that over the years many films address themselves to the spiritual side of man’s nature, from Griffith’s film Intolerance to John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath to Hitchcock’s Vertigo to Kubrick’s 2001 and so many more. It’s as if movies answer an ancient quest for the common unconscious; they fulfill a spiritual need that people have – to share a common memory.”

(Excerpted from A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies)

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