Film and the Afterlife  book cover
1st Edition

Film and the Afterlife

ISBN 9780367138967
Published July 17, 2019 by Routledge
202 Pages

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Book Description

This book explores how post-death existence is represented in popular film, looking at issues such as continuity, personal identity, and the nature of existence beyond the grave. Film often returns to the theme of dying, death and the afterlife, both directly and indirectly, because there are very few subjects as compelling and universal.

The book compares the representation of death, dying and the afterlife in films to scholarly surveys of attitudes towards life-after-death through the analysis of twenty films made between the end of World War II and now. It looks at the portrayals of stages between death and a final destination; spatio-temporal and personal continuity; the nature of afterlife existence in terms of embodiment, or not; and the contact between the worlds of the living and the dead.

This book offers a wide-ranging view on a compelling subject in film. As such, it will be of great interest to scholars of Religion and Film, Religion and Media, the Philosophy of Religion, and the Sociology of Religion, as well as Religion, Media and Film Studies more generally


Table of Contents



1 The Stages of the Afterlife

2 Continuity and Identity in the Afterlife

3 The Form and Nature of Existence in the Afterlife

4 Contact between worlds?


Appendix A Book to Film Adaptations

Appendix B The Intermediate Space in Religious Traditions

Appendix C Continuity of Personal Identity into the Afterlife

Appendix D A Mind Only World?

Subject Index

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David Rankin is an ordained minister of the Uniting Church in Australia and has served as both Principal of Trinity College Queensland, Australia, and Head of the School of Theology at Griffith University, Australia. His publications in the field include Tertullian and the Church (1995), From Clement to Origen (2006), Athenagoras (2009), and The Early Church and the Afterlife (2017).


"Film and the Afterlife appears in the theologically grounded "Routledge Studies in Religion and Film Series." Rankin (an Australia-based academic and minister) establishes a dialogue among films, theological traditions, and sundry forms of research (e.g., neuroscience, sociology) to ascertain what popular culture showcases as afterlife. Mostly exploring liminal spaces between life and death, Rankin examines such commercially successful films as Ghost and Sixth Sense and also less familiar ones, such as Dragonfly. (But where is the wildly comic This Is the End?) The author strategically attends to them as texts worthy to be understood on their own terms as he explores such fascinating subjects as whether inhabitants of such liminal spaces need to resolve unfinished business before moving on (ideally upward) and prevailing archetypal tropes of heaven, e.g., light. He deals with various stages of the afterlife, continuity between the stages and what personal identity in the afterlife might look like, depictions of post-death existence of mind and embodiment, possibilities of communication between the worlds of the quick and the dead, and, finally, the understanding of the purpose and meaning of the afterlife for spectators of the films."

- T. Lindvall, Virginia Wesleyan University, CHOICE