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Thompson lecturer tackles Eastwood films

February 22, 2013

Allyson Frazier / The Courier - Thompson lecturer Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki discusses theological insights in four Clint Eastwood films. Afterward her lecture, audience members were encouraged to ask questions.

Blood-soaked and vigilante-infused movies were preparation materials for the Samuel M. Thompson Memorial Lecture as guest speaker Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki explored themes and theological insights gathered from Clint Eastwood films for her lecture “Tracing Redemption in the Films of Clint Eastwood: Religion and Film in Dialogue.”

In the week leading up to the lecture, held last Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m. in Poling Hall, students, faculty and the community were invited to watch “Unforgiven,” “Mystic River,” “Million Dollar Baby” and “Gran Torino” over the course of four nights in the Barnes Electric Classroom.

A retired professor at Claremont School of Theology, Suchocki still serves as co-director of the school’s Center for Process Studies. She previously taught Professor Dan Ott, who recommended her as the Thompson lecturer.

She is studying Eastwood, Woody Allen and the Coen Brothers, among other directors, and took up Ott’s suggestion of looking at Eastwood films as her topic.

“I like Eastwood because he does an interesting thing,” Suchocki said. “These first two films, ‘Unforgiven’ and ‘Mystic River,’ are basically the same film. He does the same thing of contrasting vigilante justice versus legal justice, and in the subplot [of Mystic River] he begins to define forgiveness. The next two films [‘Million Dollar Baby’ and ‘Gran Torino’] he talks in Christological terms, where you see the way to stop violence is through sacrificial love. The first two supplement the last two.”

Besides the four films shown on campus, Suchocki also added Eastwood’s “Hereafter,” a film revolving around death and love, to tie up her lecture.

“I’ve always seen literature and film as containing reflections of theological insights, particularly film,” Suchocki said. “Theologians can look at Eastwood and go, ‘okay, let’s play with this. Let’s interpret this.’ Every piece of art has multiple interpretations, and I look at it from a theological perspective and pull these things out. It’s really fun doing it. I love working with film.”

Suchocki has experience in analyzing movies from serving on ecumenical juries at film festivals in Montreal, Berlin, and Washington D.C. She also started the Whitehead International Festival at Claremont over 12 years ago.

Cassie Burton
News Editor

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