All the Ships at Sea - Further Reading and Viewing
Seen the movie and want some reading material that touches on the issues
raised therein? Here are some books that helped Dan Sallitt when he
was writing the script.
And a few other movies with some connection, however tangential, to the
issues in All the Ships at Sea.
- In a way, All the Ships at Sea is a free-form remake of William
James' classic psychology text The
Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: The Modern Library, 1902).
James documents at length the kind of ecstatic religious experience
that pierces the veil of mundane reality, speculating on the psychological
traits that make these experiences available to some and not others.
- Marc Galanter's very rewarding Cults:
Faith, Healing and Coercion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989)
puts aside societal prejudices about cults and examines their methods and
their effects on their members and the society around them. Galanter's
observations suggest that cults can often make their members happier and more
stable, and that these effects are not necessarily short-term. It's
hard to read this book and not generalize the cult experience so that it comes
to resemble aspects of our everyday lives.
- For an interesting point/counterpoint on the charismatic movement
within the Catholic church, see James Hitchcock and Sr. Gloriana Bednarski's
(Chicago: The Thomas More Press, 1980). Hitchcock's section of the book
is a thoughtful defense of the traditional aspects of the institutional Catholic
- It's not easy to find intelligent literature from cult leaders, but
the Heaven's Gate cultists did some fascinating interviews back in the 70s,
when they were known as the Human Individual Metamorphosis (HIM) organization.
Some of these interviews can be found in Brad Steiger and Hayden Hewes'
UFO Missionaries Extraordinary (New York: Pocket Books, 1976),
reissued after the Heaven's Gate mass suicide as Inside
- Much of the discussion of Catholic doctrine in All the Ships at
Sea uses information from Richard McBrien's well-known Catholicism
(Minneapolis: Winston Press, 1980; revised edition San Francisco: HarperCollins,
1994). It doesn't take much Internet searching to discover that McBrien's
descriptions of Catholicism are hotly contested by conservative Catholics.
- Sallitt insists on comparing the emotional dynamic of his movie to
that of Anthony Mann's astonishing Korean War film Men
in War (USA, 1957), adapted by Philip Yordan, or maybe by blacklisted
Ben Maddow, from a novel by Van Van Praag. Trapped behind enemy lines
with his platoon, Robert Ryan's rational, humane officer is increasingly tormented
that Aldo Ray's brutal loose-cannon sergeant is manifestly better equipped
for survival. Substitute older sister Evelyn for Ryan, traditional Catholicism
for by-the-book military practice, and the serenity of faith for survival
in the jungle, and you probably still won't see any connection between the
two films. But do yourself a favor and see Men in War anyway.
- Among the surprising number of great films about religion, Carl Dreyer's
(Denmark, 1955) can be said to treat the issue of the crazy religious
extremist and his or her connection to the divine.
- And Ingmar Bergman's Winter
Light (Sweden, 1963), possibly his best film, deals with a loss of
faith rather more bitter and convulsive than the one in All the Ships at