Saturday, December 24, 2005

Narnia continued

NOTE: My good friend Jackie has written her highly anticipated critique of my review in the last post's comment string. Since I am set to leave town the day after Christmas, I found it needful to post my reply as quickly as possible. Thanks to all who have continued to share their thoughts on this landmark movie.

Jackie: You're going to think me supremely redundant after reading this through. To be honest, it's hard to know if you are sane when so many people disagree with you. But sane I am, for all I have tried to do is maintain my argument from the text of the book.
You say the movie did not "deliver in one essential area"- specifically, remain true to the original work. How so? Because you failed to see the Aslan of your own mental image? The book, "The Lion, Witch, Wardrobe" did not get any more in depth of Aslan's character than was portrayed in the movie. Lewis did leave further development for his character to extend over the other books.
The LWW isn’t all about Aslan’s character development. Agreed. If I failed to see Aslan according to my mental image, I would hope my mental image was from the book—or was your point that I shouldn’t have a mental image?
Lewis DID, I repeat DID, write the Narnia books as simply a child's fairy-tale. I believe you are looking for something profound and deep. Read Lewis' "Till we have faces" or "Mere Christianity" or even the Space Trilogy for that. Lewis had no intention of being profound in the Narnia books. He even said, in a letter to his friend J.R.R.Tolkien that the LWW story is simply a child's fantasy. He didn’t even seriously mean to write an allegory.
I’m sorry, but your belief that I am looking for something pretty “deep” (whatever that means) is just that: a belief. If you want to continue thinking thus, that’s cool. But for now, you're telling me that I think something and not addressing what I said. I don’t claim to be a scholar of Lewis’ and I’m only comparing a book and a movie.

One of your critisms I found quite contradictory. "He even goes so far as to ask Peter the rhetorical question, “You don’t believe in the prophecy?” as if that was a valid question." Right. That's why it was a RHETORICAL QUESTION. The point of the question was informing Peter that there's something bigger out there than his own plans or knowledge of his own existence.

The point of my criticism was more inline with a frustration with the over-blown idea of a “prophecy.” It struck me as being watered down. It staged a “Dune” kind of scenario in my mind, where the local people assume some foreigner has come to fulfill their prophecy and it takes some convincing for the person to accept his role in the story. Whether anyone else saw that or not (and I know you may have laughed at this point), it runs contrary to the spirit of the work. Aslan doesn’t need to do any convincing because the children come to KNOW what they are there for just by meeting Aslan. Don’t tell me you didn’t notice in the movie how there was a lot of emphasis on the “let’s just get Edmund, save Tumnus and go home” lines, even after meeting Aslan and going to battle!
You know what Lewis' basis of Aslan's character is. That is what you went to the movie looking to be obviously represented. But Lewis didnt write Aslan so clearly or obviously. The movie did not develop Aslan's character any less or more than this particular book did.

YES, and no. This is getting a little tricky because it seems like you are mixing the allegory and allusion to the gospel (something that’s just part of the plot) with the basic impression that I gleaned from the Aslan in the movie: this was my point. I most certainly did NOT go looking for Aslan to be “obvious” and easy to understand. Lewis didn’t make Aslan’s character explicit nor should he have. That’s just the problem with the movie. What you saw was what you had. Lewis was implicit and subtle. Aslan was someone you couldn’t probe fully except in the specific way HE chose to reveal himself.

Here’s where the dialogue before meeting him was so vitally important. It showed the animals’ incredible anticipation--which rubbed off on the children. Paradoxically, they had trouble articulating Aslan’s character so that the children could understand their anticipation. But that anticipation still hung with the children nonetheless and the movie completely missed that.
Lewis said himself in that letter to Tolkien. Those who understand any kind of allegorical reference that might be there, will 'get it.' Those who don’t, won’t. No more, no less. I believe the movie did just that. No more, no less. I believe you went looking for more, hoping that those
who didn’t 'get it' would. Since you understand the fullness of the Aslan's character, you were hoping to see the movie portray that. Yes, it would have been neat if they had, but in NOT doing that, they HAVE remained true to the book.
This is again, building up a lot of speculation about what I was hoping to see. Since I don't agree, I can only reiterate what I was looking for: the kind of reaction, effect, and anticipation I saw in the book, coming to life on the screen. There’s more to portraying Aslan by the book than what’s immediate—what he said, what he did--and those extras (see the quote at the end) are in the book and ARE needed. I'm not trying to impose a "complete picture" of Aslan on a story that doesn't reveal it. I didn't say that, so I'm intrigued to know what makes you think that? Are we speculating about my thought process or discussing what I wrote. I hate to say it, Jackie, but your critique of my review is more or less attempting to critique what you think I think. That’s perfectly fine if that’s what you want to do, but you may, as a result, grow tired of my equally persistent denials.
I also have to make a minor note on your critique of the soundtrack. Admit it, you were hoping for an epic soundtrack like that of LOTR. In actuality, Narnia is NOT an "epic" story like LOTR. It IS a children's fairy tale and the soundtrack, I thought, did MUCH to hold to that very idea. It was a soundtrack that matched perfectly with any children's fairy tale. Think Brothers Grimm here. I know Lewis did.
No, I will not admit anything of the kind about the music--and I'm thoroughly tired of having to talk about LOTR as though I am somehow too much a Tolkien fan to differentiate his work from Lewis. I have never entered a theater expecting any kind of music. Why bother watching a movie if you think there is only one right musical score or style, one right way of putting the dialogue together, etc.? A movie director is an artist with a tough job and that should be recognized. It would be arrogant to blow off a director’s choice of music without trying to understand it. I do understand your “Brothers Grimm” recommendation, but respectfully disagree that it ended up being of that caliber—mainly because “Brothers Grimm” tends to carry a different meaning for different people, all of whom have little to go on.

However, I know music can grow on the listener so I’m looking forward to watching it again soon with that in mind.

Thanks for putting the time into pursuing this. You can be sure I'm anticipating another response. I'm going to finish with a paragraph from the book that drives a lot of what you just read.
And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don’t understand but in the dream it feels like it has some enormous meaning—either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and you are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in his inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.


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