Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Steven Shaviro


Between 2000 and 2008, writer/director Richard Dutcher made four films with narratives focused primarily on members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The films are explicitly Mormon-related in their content, but I argue they are also inherently Mormon in their style. Critic and filmmaker Paul Schrader argues there is a particular style of filmmaking, a dialect of the cinematic language if you will, that enables viewers to experience an encounter with a Transcendent Divinity. The contention of this dissertation is that Schrader's views were simultaneously too general and too narrow. I draw on Clive Marsh's call for an embrace of religious particularity in film criticism and scholarship and reject the idea of some "universal" filmic style that evokes the Transcendent for all viewers. Rather than ignore the doctrinal, cultural, and historical specifics of a particular religion, I mine the specifics on my own religion, Mormonism, and examine Dutcher's movie through those lenses in order to discover how a Mormon Transcendent might be evoked through film. I take Marsh's concept and enact it here in hopes of finding how religious particularity can create greater insight into religious and/or spiritual films and generate greater opportunity for encounters with the Transcendent for viewers. Dutcher's movies attempt to fuse style and content in a way that is reflective of Mormon history, doctrine, and worldview. While the style is tentative at first and evolves over the course of his quartet, his films give successful on-screen concretion to elements of Mormonism that allow viewers to experience Latter-Day Saint Divine.