Glimpses of a Place Spirituality in American Filmmaker John Sayles’ Limbo: Authenticity, Inauthenticity and Modes of Place Engagement

  • David SeamonEmail author


Though he has never tackled religious themes directly, independent filmmaker John Sayles is one of America’s most spiritually astute directors. His character-driven films regularly explore self-transformation stymied or propelled by personal misfortune, social change or the mystery of fate. Several of his films explicate the hazardous relationships between people and places, particularly as those places incorporate existential limitations or possibilities. In his 1999 Limbo, the place is early twenty-first-century Alaska, which is both the setting and antagonist for three main characters who face personal and interpersonal risk as that risk is impelled by place in both its human and natural forms. Sayles suggests that what one’s place is may not be the place where he or she really needs to be. Finding one’s place is never guaranteed, but, if we are successful, we break free of ‘limbo’—what Sayles defines as ‘a condition of unknowable outcome’ but also as ‘an intermediate or transitional place’. In the film, Sayles suggests that searching for one’s place may ultimately be more important than actually finding it.


Place relationships Limbo Authenticity/inauthenticity John Sayles Place spirituality 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kansas State UniversityManhattanUSA

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