International Conference "Protestantism on Screen"

Event Information

  • Thursday, June 25, 2015 - Saturday, June 27, 2015
  • LEUCOREA Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Collegienstraße 62
  • 06886 Wittenberg, Lutherstadt

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International Conference “Protestantism on Screen”

Organized by Gastón Espinosa, Erik Redling, Jason Stevens

Protestantism on Screen: Religion, Politics, and Aesthetics in European and American Movies

International Conference

June 25-27, 2015, Halle (Saale)

Protestantism on Screen (June 25-27) seeks to fill a major gap in the fields of Religion and Film and Religion and Popular Culture Studies by examining how cinema has portrayed the Protestant Reformation and the rise and spread of Protestantism throughout Europe and the New World. Our international scope will compare representations, aesthetics, values, and ideologies across decades and national film industries. Although Hollywood has produced many of the “Bible and Sandals” films (positive portrayals about Jesus and other religious leaders in the Bible), post-1970 films have been more subversive and pushed the boundaries of Protestant and Christian notions of identity. We will be giving attention to these more daring films as well as to earlier films in genres that deal creatively with Protestant themes and institutions outside Hollywood’s biblical epics and biopics of saints. Given the size of the global Protestant movement around the world (800 million and growing) and in the United States (52-60% of the population), this conference’s focus on how the Protestant movement has been portrayed in international cinema, and continues to be felt in contemporary movies (as evidenced in the 2014 releases of Fury and the remake of Left Behind), will add a crucial perspective to religious studies, cultural history, and the story of film.

Sponsored by:

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Wednesday, June 24 19:00

Informal Meet-and-Greet

at the “Hofwirtschaft (Cranachhof)”

Thursday, June 25 09:00 – 09:30

Welcome and Opening Remarks

Gastón Espinosa, Erik Redling, Jason Stevens

1. History and Theory of Protestantism in Religion and Film Studies

    (Chair: Jason Stevens, Pittsburgh)

09:30 – 10:15

“Protestant Responses to Hollywood, Censorship, and Art Cinema”

William D. Romanowski (Calvin College)

10:15 – 11:00

“Independent Protestant Film in the USA, from the Silent Era to its Contemporary Resurgence”

Andrew Quicke (Regent University)

11:00 – 11:30

Coffee Break

11:30 – 12:15

“Protestant Themes Within Secular Models of Salvation”

Clive Marsh (University of Leicester)

12:15 – 14:00

Lunch at the “Best Western Hotel”

2. Protestant Reformation on Screen

    (Chair: Erik Redling and Christin Reimann, Halle)

14:00 – 14:15


Consul General Scott R. Reidmann (Leipzig)

14:15 – 14:45

“Conflicting Visions of Martin Luther in European and American Movies”

Esther Wipfler (Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, München)

14:45 – 15:15

“Conflicting Visions of the English Reformation in Cromwell

Gastón Espinosa (Claremont McKenna College)

15:15 – 15:30 Coffee Break
3. Protestant Impulses in European Films

    (Chair: Martin Meyer and Julia Nitz, Halle)

16:00 – 16:45

“Protestant Miracle in the Danish Film Ordet bei Carl Dreyer”

Mark Le Fanu (University College London)

16:45 – 17:30

“Protestant Crises in the Swedish Trilogy Silence of God by Ingmar Bergmann

Maaret Koskinen (Stockholm University)

18:00 – 19:30 Buffet at the “Bibliothek (Leucorea)”
19:30 – 22:00

Public Film Screening (subsequent panel discussion)

Ingmar Bergmann The Silence (1963)

(Chair: Maaret Koskinen, Stockholm)

Friday, June 26  3. Protestant Impulses in European Films

     (Chair: Julia Straub, Bern, and Martin Meyer, Halle)

9:30 – 10:15

“Resistance to Protestant Allegory in the German-Austrian Film The Scarlet Letter by Wim Wenders”

Erik Redling (Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg)

10:15 – 10:45

“Musical Meditations: Bach’s Sacred Music and Other Musical Traces of Protestantism in European Movies”

George Maas (Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg)

11:00 – 11:15 Coffee Break
4. Protestant Representations in American Movies

    (Chair: Gastón Espinosa, Claremont, and Julia Nitz, Halle)

11:30 – 12:15

“Evangelical Fundamentalism in American Versus European Films”

Julia Helmke (University of Erlangen-Nürnberg)

12:15 – 14:00 Lunch at the “Best Western Hotel”
14:00 – 14:45

“Apocalypticism and Protestant Evangelical Horror from Thief in the Night to Left Behind

Timothy Beal (Case Western Reserve University)

 5. Protestant Themes in Film Genres

     (Chair: Jason Stevens, Pittsburgh, and Erik Redling, Halle)

14:45 – 15:30

“Divine Presence and Absence in the World of Woe: The Problem of Evil in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life

Mark Scott (Villanova University)

15:30 – 16:00 Coffee Break
16:00 – 16:45

“Horror: The Devil, Witchcraft, and Sex in The Wicker Man and Witchfinder General

Victor Sage (East Anglia University)

16:45 – 17:30

“The Western: Typology and Morality in High Plains Drifter and Pale Rider

Sara A. Vaux (Northwestern University)

17:30 – 18:30

Students from the University of Halle present:

“Protestantism and Violence in The White Rabbit by Michael Haneke” (Marcus Bachmann, Emily Blume, Maurice Theek)

“Protestantism and Seriality in the TV-Series True Detective” (Norbert Herbstreit)

18:30 – 20:00 Dinner at the “Brauhaus Wittenberg”
Saturday, June 27 5. Protestant Themes in Film Genres

    (Chair: Gastón Espinosa, Claremont, and Michael Sauter, Augsburg)

9:30 – 10:15

“Film Noir: Calvinism and Self-Surveillance in Paul Schrader’s Hardcore

Jason Stevens (University of Pittsburgh)

10:15 – 10:30 Coffee Break
10:30 – 11:15

“Protestant Pietism, the Conflict of Spirit and Flesh, and Reconciliatory Grace in the Danish Babette’s Feast

Kjell Lejon (Linköping University)

11:15 – 12:00 Concluding Discussion
14:00 – 15:30 Guided Tour of the “Lutherstadt Wittenberg” (engl.)




The conference will be held at the Leucorea Foundation in the city of Wittenberg.

Situated in the heart of Wittenberg, the Leucorea Foundation represents an ideal conference venue providing ample space for conference sessions as well as for lodging and board for all participants.

For further information please visit the Leucorea Foundation’s website.

The address of the Leucorea Foundation is:
Stiftung Leucorea
Collegienstraße 62
06886 Lutherstadt Wittenberg





Situated in the heart of Wittenberg, the Leucorea Foundation represents an ideal conference venue providing ample space for conference sessions as well as for lodging and board for all participants.

With direct access to Wittenberg’s central pedestrian area, the Leucorea is located in close proximity to the Luther House, in which Martin Luther spent most of his active life, and St. Mary’s Church with the famous altar designed by Lucas Cranach the Elder.

You will be lodging at the Leucorea in single rooms (unless booked otherwise). The rooms at the Leucorea are fully equipped with en-suite bathrooms, television, telephone, and internet access. Catering service will supply us with breakfast and coffee/tea during breaks.

Rates for additional nights (single room) and double rooms are:
single room: 35,00 EUR/night
double room (for two persons): 45 EUR/night

*These rates do not include breakfast.

For further information please visit the Leucorea Foundation’s website.




By air

We recommend flying into Berlin and taking the train to Lutherstadt Wittenberg, which is about a forty-minute train ride from Berlin.

By train

Take a train to Lutherstadt Wittenberg Hauptbahnhof (main station).

You can check timetables and book a ticket on the website of the Deutsche Bahn AG. * There are bargain price options if you book one or two months in advance, possibly also offered by your local travel agency. You can also buy a ticket at the airport/station once you arrive in Germany, of course (no special offers possible).

* A note on the website of the Deutsche Bahn: For a change of language, you are asked to select your country. Unfortunately, you need to type in/select the German names of cities and stations. Relevant stations and terms are:

main station: “Hauptbahnhof”, abbreviation, “Hbf”
airport: “Flughafen”

The embedded map to the left will help you get from the train station to the Leucorea Foundation.




Prof. Dr. Erik Redling

Managing Director

Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 345 55-23520

Christin Reimann

Managing Assistant

Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 345 55-23549