Saturday, May 24, 2008

Prince Caspian is Here!

The long-anticipated Prince Caspian is now playing in theaters. If you would like to read my coverage of the movie on Holywood Jesus, please visit Narnia News. For my review of the movie, follow this link: The Pirates of Narnia.

I have also been posting transcripts from interviews with the film's cast and writers. The interviews were conducted by a panel of reporters in New York City on May 3. The interviews, as well as other Feature articles, can be found in Hollywood Jesus' Narnia Features.

I hope you come by Hollywood Jesus and pay me a visit this Memorial Day weekend. Have a great holiday.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Divine Revelers: The god of wine helps awaken Narnia

Note: This Blog entry was published earlier as a book review on Hollywood Jesus in a slightly altered form.

There is a painting by Pauline Baynes that graced the front of the paperback version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for years in Great Britain. (This cover was not available on American editions until recently.) The scene is just after Aslan is resurrected and Lucy and Susan are dancing with him.

This passage in The Lion (near the end of Chapter 15) is reminiscent of the New Testament account of the resurrection, as well as other events in the life of Jesus Christ. The loud cracking of the Stone Table is like the earthquake and splitting of the Veil in the Temple. After realizing Aslan is real, Lucy and Susan “flung themselves upon him and covered him with kisses.” On Easter morning, Mary clings to Jesus when she realizes He is not just the gardener. (John 20:17 NKJV, NASB) In Luke 17 a woman anoints Christ’s feet and keeps kissing His feet.

After Aslan tells the girls about the Deeper Magic, the “romp” begins. Chasing, leaping, scrambling–”whether it was more like playing with a thunderstorm or playing with a kitten Lucy could never make up her mind.” The romp only takes up one paragraph, but it would have taken up a few minutes on film, if the writers of the Walden/Disney adaptation of the book had chosen to put it into the movie. I am sure they felt that the film needed to move on at that point. After all, a battle is going on, and Aslan has work to do. So the movie bypasses the Romp and goes straight to the Roar.

Aslan’s Romp in Prince Caspian takes up much more than one paragraph, although it begins after the Roar. Strangely, after the trees are awakened, Aslan is is joined (in the book) by a exotic group led by a young boy with a wild face, who is followed by “wild girls” and a fat man on a donkey. Lucy and Susan soon recognize that the boy is Bacchus, whom they had learned about from Mr. Tumnus long ago. The fat man is Silenus. (If you have seen the original version [1940] of the Disney movie Fantasia, you may recall the scene of the fat man on a donkey during Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. Disney morphs Bacchus and Silenus into one person.) Why is Lewis introducing the Greek god of wine and his drunken teacher into the story?

At the very end of Chapter 11, Susan makes the comments that she “wouldn’t have felt safe with Bacchus and all his wild girls if we’d met them without Aslan.” The inclusion of Bacchus was an attempt at “redeeming” the pagan myths, as Lewis often did in his fictional works. As he explains in his autobiographical book, Surprised by Joy, mythology was one of the things that awakened a sense of Joy in Lewis during his early life. Lewis defines this “Joy” in Chapter 1 as “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.” It is a desire for something other and outer, that he later finds only to be fulfilled in a relationship with God.

Prince Caspian is perhaps the most personal of the Chronicles for Lewis. Devin Brown asks in the title of a recent article for Christianity Today Movies, “Is Caspian Really C. S. Lewis?” The parallels between Lewis and Caspian are striking. The relationship of Lewis and his nurse, who told him Irish folktales, mirrors Caspian’s nurse, who told the Prince of the Old Days of Narnia.
When we leave Lucy and Susan at the end of Chapter 11, we follow the boys and Trumpkin to Aslan’s How. “The Sorcery” must be dealt with. Lewis believed that sin was trying to fulfill legitimate desire in an illegitimate way. The desire for restoration of enchantment to Narnia was a good thing. But will the Narnians trust Aslan and wait for him, or seek power elsewhere? Lewis had a fascination for the Occult, which he had to deal with in his personal life. The Specter of the White Witch must be dealt with at Aslan’s How.

Lewis was also concerned that the ideals of chivalry had been lost in the modern world. Thus we have Peter’s challenge to Miraz to monomachy– a fight to the death to establish who will be the rightful king. Peter demonstrates the chivalrous attitude throughout the fight, but the Telmarines are intent on treachery. They did not count on the awakened trees, however, and are soundly defeated. They have to throw down their arms as they try to flee back across the river and find the Bridge of Bernuna has disappeared.

The last half of Chapter 14 tells about how Bacchus helps destroy the bridge and then goes on another romp through the town. As people join them, the group is described by Lewis as “divine revelers.” This is not the drunken debauchery usually associated with Bacchus, but a celebration of the liberation of Narnia from an oppressive regime. The freedom extends even to the schools in town. Students are freed from the “sort of ‘History’ that was taught in Narnia under Miraz’s rule [which] was duller than the truest history you ever read and less true than the most exciting adventure story.”

A girl from one of the schools join the group, and they “helped her take off some of the unnecessary and uncomfortable clothes she was wearing.” Lewis is not here promoting lasciviousness, like Bacchus of old would have. The girl is not being lewd, but is breaking free from the stuffy uniform that was worn by students in that day, including “ugly tight collars round their necks and thick tickly stockings on their legs.” In Chapter 2 of Surprised by Joy (”Concentration Camp”), Lewis describes what a school uniform was like for the boys.

Now I am choking and sweating, itching too, in thick dark stuff, throttled by an
Eton collar, my feet already aching with unaccustomed boots. I am wearing
knickerbockers that button at the knee. Every might … I am able to see the red,
smarting imprint of those buttons in my flesh when I undress. Worst of all is
the bowler hat, apparently made of iron, which grasps my head.

Part of what Lewis is trying to convey, I think, is that committed Christians can have fun without having to be drunk–or worse. But you don’t have to be a “stuffed shirt” in order to follow Christ. There is a liberation that Christians know which allows us to celebrate life. Unfortunately, many who call themselves Christians have not discovered that freedom in Christ. With all that Christ has done for us, the Christian life should be one of celebration. We could all use a little redeemed Bacchus in our lives.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Time Flies When You're Having Fun in Narnia

Has it really been three weeks since my last post? Sorry about that. I have, to say the least, been very busy. Last weekend was the "Press Junket" for the latest Chronicles of Narnia move, Prince Caspian. This was my first time in New York, and the first time I was able to participate in interviewing cast members and writers of a movie! To read about my experience, check out these entries in the Narnia News Blog I write at Hollywood Jesus.

Live from the New York Press Screening

The New York Experience

Interviews and Contemplation

My review of the movie is scheduled to appear on Hollywood Jesus on May 16. I am also writing a Feature article on the book, which I hope to have published this Sunday. So stay tuned!

Here are some pictures I took in New York of Central Park and the Hotel where I stayed.