tag : bright yellow-green apples: suprised by Lewis

"I see little point in persisting in a discussion with one so obstinate as you" Martin White

Thursday, December 15, 2005

suprised by Lewis

Figure 45.7. the old classics

I was dragged along to see that Narnia film lastnight by my old friend Tim, thus foiling my plan to wait until it came out on video!

But it was rather good fun in the end, despite some slightly laughable moments – such as the ludicrous dark ugliness of the baddy horde. What appealed most to me about this film was that it’s a good romp – where The Lord of the Rings was so portentous and self consciously po-faced, as His Dark Materials looks likely to be, this has a wonderfully anarchic feel about it. There are fauns and talking beavers fighting alongside griffins, Santa Claus rides up on his sleigh to give out weapons to the kids.

This freedom in mucking around with every mythological element under the sun makes up a lot for the impossibly flaky characters - the kids were really annoying and bland. You could say this was simply their age and novelty in a film, but most of the Narnia inhabitants only opened their mouths to say summit morose like “I will stand by you no matter what, we have a bond beyond death” etc etc. without a shred of real involvement. I couldn’t really feel any empathy for them, they were all simply there as moving props, shadow puppets against a thrilling stage.

Cos the story is a pretty good one, precisely because it’s a biblical allegory. Some people seem to object to the very notion of this particular story that playing with metaphorical religious stories. But that’s absurd, as this article points out, since so much of our European culture is steeped in the narratives. They make for some of our most deeply resonating themes. I was ummming and arrring for ages, knowing the book, about all my objections to its portrayal – particularly the stated need to appease ‘deep magic’ with death. But then I realised you might as well switch off from such concerns about philosophical consistency - and recognise that the best stories are pretty rich, in all their spiky awkwardness, and will explore beyond what we find comfortable.

So despite myself, and despite aparently disagreeing with Ash on some of the actual content, I must say this is a top-notch film.


Anonymous James Stewart said...

We saw the film on Sunday. I thought that although a few changes were for the better, the adaptation as a whole was disappointing. Compared to the BBC version I liked the kids -- Lucy, in particular -- but you're right that there wasn't enough development of why the children and Aslan got so much loyalty from people who'd just met them.

I think a lot of the development of that in the book hinges around the scenes in the Beavers' house that is ripped to pieces in the film. In that scene we should see the power of the mythical prophecy that the children arrive in fulfillment of, and get a sense of the power of the very name of Aslan. Instead we got a tokenistic nod to the fact that the scene was there, and lost any sense of the mythical potency these four very ordinary children posess.

I'll probably go and see it again though, if just to see how it sits with me now I've got over the "how have they changed it" viewing.

4:40 PM  
Blogger ash said...

he he, i thought you might like it rather some.

One thing that I rather liked, noticed on second viewing, was that the proffessor smokes his pipe. Most directors now would feel obliged to cut the smoking from a kids movie. Even Peter Jackson, as he reveals in one of the many special features on Extended LOTR DVDs, purposfully gave Gandalf a coughing fit when he sparks up at Minas Tirith, to show how bad smoking is.

This film managed to stick it to the man in that respect. Not only do they keep the professor a smoker (as Lewis and Tolkein doubtlessly were) they actually have him spark up in front of the kids.


2:31 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

I can't comment on this having not seen the film, but I wondered if you'd noticed that you're famous?

Well done, 'middle of the road' man! I'm sure you're thrilled to be in cahoots with the Eurosceptics ;-)

6:09 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Martin -
On my word, I'm somewhat flattered that anyone's actually quoted me. Even if it is very selectively, in support of people who's viewpoints I hold in varying degrees of disregard!

12:59 AM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Ash -
You've watched it twice? Now that is dedication to the cause. I hadn't noticed that feature, unlike the indentity of the Dwarf! hehe. But I suppose it's just being true to the character of the time it was written, rather than jumping on an aparent modern love of smoking in stories.

1:06 AM  
Blogger postliberal said...

James -
Indeed - there's a lot to fit in, but that doesn't excuse taking relationships and development for granted. In that respect, it's probably done mostly with the implicit assumption of those who've read the books already. I might have my walkman on, next time I watch it ;)

1:12 AM  
Blogger Martin said...

On the point - I didn't actually see a great deal to object to in the specifics of Toynbee's article, though the headline was inflammatory. It certainly isn't an attack on 'the very notion', unless you choose to read it this way. And let me just check - is the resurrection of Christ a 'metaphorical religious stories'.

However much I doubt the existence of this media Christian-bashing, I think Deborah Orr sums it up nicely in today's Independent (as usual, showing the Indy's far superior journalistic talent in comparison to Toynbee's mob):

The great Christian message in TLTWATW is supposed to be the resurrection of Aslan - the lion leader who represents Christ. My [eight-year-old] son wasn't fazed at all by this plot twist. He's familiar already with the resurrection of Gandalf, Darth Vader and Sleeping Beauty. He's seen back-from-the-brink moments in Harry Potter, involving all sorts dodgy disbelief-suspensions. He understands that in made-up worlds, made-up things happen. He knows the story of Christ as well, and puts that story in the same category.

2:20 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls.

Having said that, I missed this... scratch that.

2:42 PM  
Blogger hatchris said...

It's strange that somebody could find the idea of somebody doing something for them, something hard and difficult and impossible and loving, so repugnant!

The Bish has already been covering all this of course, so I will say no more.

10:40 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Chris -

There are a lot of reviews floating around (yourself, James, Ash...), but I'll just stick up a link to that one you referred to for now. I think the more playful symbolic telling of the Narnia story can't be seen as 'inferior' to the gospel accounts - but as a necessary stimulous to our imaginative involement with the divine stories.

1:21 AM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Martin -

See, that's just the tip of the proverbial iceburg. She, and her ilk, really do seem to have an emotional issue with the very existence of religion. Quite beyond normal critiques.

1:31 AM  
Blogger Martin said...

Who exactly is part of this ilk though, apart from Polly Toynbee? Malevolent, spiteful and tiresome though she may be, she's the only one I've known you to refer to in the category you describe.

12:55 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Roy Jenkins, bless him, is another generally sane and sensible writer who came out with similarly muddy diatribes in the comment pages. John Patterson wrote a pretty ranty and messy comment about films, taking in all religious people with fundamentalists. Madeleine Bunting, David Aaronovitch, and Nick Cohen have all done stuff which sometimes comes in various degrees to claim it's 'common sense' to diss religious people as silly or dangerous. Not to mention guest spots for the odd evangelical humanist who spends the space rubbing at others rather than presenting a constructive vision.

12:06 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I saw it yesterday

I quite liked it, i daresay i might buy it cheap on amazon in a few years, but apparently i kept laughing at the guy who played peter- he didn't seem to have quite enough flaws...

In a way i was pleased that the girl wasn't very cute- they could have got the cutest little girl to play lucy and everyone would have gone "awww bless!" but then she might have been crap at acting, but she did a good job instead and maybe her plainness allowed her character to be a little more believable. Maybe the least impressive bit was the bit on the stone table where lucy and susan were crying - i was in floods reading that in the book and it left me rather cold

With regard to the entire story, i find the portrayal of edmund disappointing in terms of 3rd child representation. We have issues, but we rock. yes, we do.

6:19 PM  
Blogger hatchris said...

I think I was referring to earlier BlueFish posts , rather than the review, when he was commenting on the media coverage.

" but as a necessary stimulous to our imaginative involement with the divine stories."

True, I like to think we should look at events in the bible from a lot of angles and perspectives - by their very nature, I don't think they can just be explained at a face value reading of the text. So perhaps these 'playful symbolic' tellings of which you speak are useful :-)

10:31 PM  
Anonymous Donna said...

Santa Claus handing out weapons to kids. Hmm. Are you sure that's not a scene from a shopping mall in America. We're big on guns and war here. ;-)

9:17 PM  
Blogger John said...

I didn't find the movie particularly powerful or unpleasant. Sort of blah. I could take it or leave it.

3:29 AM  

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