DARKMATTERS - The Mind of Matt

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Narnia: The Battle Begins

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – the thinking behind the film.

By Matt Adcock

A battle is about to be unleashed this week, a struggle for the hearts, minds but above all - box office takings. As The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe opens worldwide it is sparking furious debate as many Christians hail it as being almost a ‘Passion of Christ for children’. But while many churches across the globe are busy block booking tickets (I’ve had my invite to Stopsley Baptist Church’s screening), what do the filmmakers think of it all?

It’s no secret that in the U.S. Disney and the Church have had a fairly unhappy relationship over many years with various rumoured boycotts, claims of family value erosion and loudly voiced concern over the morals being portrayed in many of the films produced by Disney. So many were concerned when it was announced that they would be handling the new film version of The Chronicles of Narnia. Was this part of a plot to water down the Christian messages that run through the fantasy children’s books of C.S. Lewis? Would the film be nothing more than a Lord of the Rings meets Harry Potter cash in?

I asked the director Andrew Adamson what his take on the Christian aspect of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was. He said: ““When people are talking about the resurrection allegory and so on, I say ‘you mean like The Matrix?’. People look at me blankly and I say ‘well, there’s Neo, he’s the chosen one, and he dies and comes back and saves the world – there’s an allegory for you’. Obviously CS Lewis was a Christian, but to me spirituality and religion are very personal issues and it’s really up to the audience, or the reader, to interpret it as they wish. I’ve made a movie of the book, and what you got from the book you’ll get from the movie.”

This is indeed the case – the explicit Christ like analogy of when traitorous Edmund’s life is saved by the sacrifice of the messiah lion Aslan has not gone unnoticed in the media. This week whilst The Guardian rated the film a maximum 5 stars it also ran a scathing opinion piece by Polly Toynbee on the film in which she claims that “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. Did we ask him to? Poor child Edmund, to blame for everything, must bear the full weight of a guilt only Christians know how to inflict…”

But Adamson is keen that people enjoy the film without bring such entrenched opinions to the cinema: “I read the books before I even knew what allegory meant, and I enjoyed them purely as an adventure," he says. "That's how the film should be able to be enjoyed, too."

C. S. Lewis certainly left a lot of the tale to the imagination in his stories, I wondered if this made the adaptation process easier or harder?
Adamson: “It was really kind of a blessing and a curse. It was definitely great to be able to draw upon the imagination that I had since reading the story at eight years old and being able to bring that imagination to the screen. At the same time this book has been read by probably 100 million people, and they all have their own interpretation, their own images of it.”
And whatever you think of the film, it certainly stirs the imagination, rouses the heart and makes you hungry for more. If the Chronicles of Narnia continue their path to the big screen (plans are underway for Prince Caspian to be the next Narnia movie if Wardrobe is a commercial success) the debate around the ‘Christian – ness’ of the material may well become a regular debate...

Read my review of: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

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