Saturday, January 14, 2006

Film: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

A few weeks ago I saw The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I have great respect for C.S. Lewis as a writer, and I’m a fan of The Chronicles of Narnia. I really enjoyed the movie, and thought that it adequately captured the wonder of the book.

The one thing that stood out for me, and which I think could not be avoided, was the strong Christian symbolism in the story. The sacrificing of Aslan’s life in place of Edmund’s treachery is quite similar to the Christian story of Jesus sacrificing his life for our sin. The beating of Aslan as he walked to the alter (the beating of Jesus before the crucifixion), the approach of Susan and Lucy to his body just before dawn (the approach of the woman to Jesus’ tomb just before dawn), the splitting of the stone table (the splitting of the curtain in the Temple as Jesus died?), and the rebirth of Aslan are symbols that represent the story of Jesus.

In fact, C.S. Lewis’ decision to represent the character of Aslan as a lion was probably no accident either: in Revelation 5:5, the writer refers to Jesus as the Lion from Judah’s tribe, the root of David. At the end of The Voyage of the Dawntreader, the fifth book in the Narnia series, Aslan appears as a small lamb, and after the lamb slowly changes to his lion form, he says to the children that in their world (i.e., our world), he is known by a different name.

The symbolism linking Aslan to Jesus is quite obvious. Some reviews of the movie criticised the symbolism, but I honestly can’t see how anyone can make a movie of the book without this feature. It is an integral part of the story.

I hope that movies of the other books in the series will be made. I would love to see how they represent the other characters on screen, like Reepicheep, the Mouse (my favourite character); Bree, the talking horse; and Puddleglum, the Marsh-wiggle. We will just have to wait and see.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a kid I enjoyed the Narnia stories too - "The horse and his boy" was always my favourite - and although nominally a Christian because I was not aware of any alternative, I cannot recall having any awareness of the 'Christian' symbolism.

Coming back to the books as an atheist adult I must admit to feeling a 'fond glow' when I read them, based probably on nostalgia for that original childhood -childish? - experience. But is this not what most adults experience with Christmas? An echo of the real joy they had in their childhood rather than a genuine and present experience.

Now, tho', the books just seem trite and shallow. The children are cardboard and the White Witch devoid of motive. Even more noticeable to a critical adult are the inconsistancies in the history of Narnia, and the convoluted improbabilities Lewis has to create in order to 'explain' some of the detail - ie. how the famous lamp-post happened to be in Narnia in the first place.

In all of this Lewis, a die-hard Christian, is quite faithful to his belief-system. The Bible, like the Chronicles of Narnia, begins with broad, bland but attractive generalities but nce you start deliving into the details or applying them to reality it all turns to unsatisfactory custard.

Like Narnia the Bible only makes sense to the childlike (childish?) mind, butin order to cling to the illusiory 'fond glow' the Bible and its fictions gives them too many people turn their backs on the critical faculties adulthood is supposed to give them and cling to insead to the trust and innocence of childhood.