“Great Divorce”: The Movie

C. S. Lewis’s Great Divorce is getting made into a movie!  That symbolic/visionary/satirical/fantasy of a bus trip from Hell to a too-solid Heaven would seem to be hard to render in a film, but that’s part of what makes the prospect interesting.  The writer tapped to write the screenplay?  N. D. Wilson (the son of Douglas Wilson, whom some of you may know of).  Justin Taylor interviews him about  the project:

How do you take a set of episodes and turn them into a coherent story while being faithful and without ruffling too many feathers?

Oh, I’m not afraid to ruffle feathers. But any nervous fans out there should know that I’m as dog-loyal to Lewis and his vision as any writer could be. Where I’m adding and expanding and shaping, I am constantly trying to check myself against Lewis’ broader imagination as represented in his collected works—not simply this little volume.

I will admit that when I began the adaptation, I felt like I was jumping off a cliff into (hopefully deep) mysterious waters—you can never completely predict what will happen on impact. But now that I’ve impacted and finished the first draft of the script, I can say that (as a Lewis fan), I’m really, really happy with it. And from here, I hope it only gets better. . . .

The Great Divorce has been referenced a fair bit lately in the Christian blogosphere, with the suggestion that there are similarities between Lewis’s “supposal” and Rob Bell’s “proposal.” And Bell himself recommends the book in Love Wins. Any thoughts on that?

At times Rob Bell (like in the Love Wins video) sounds exactly like the kind of character that one could expect to find in the pages of The Great Divorce. He seems to enjoy chasing and massaging ideas and questions for the sake of the journey of it all and not for the arrival. Landing on objective concrete answers isn’t exactly the goal. That’s not meant as a comment on whether or not Bell is regenerate (we’re graciously saved by faith not works, luckily enough), but it is a comment on where Bell would sit with Lewis in this whole discussion.

And, of course, Lewis put the universalist George MacDonald in Heaven and made him watch the unrepentant damned get back on the bus to Hell. A little wink and gloat at one of his favorite authors. . . .

Assuming you would have done things differently, can you summarize why the Narnia films have not had the same effect on children as the books?

No movie is going to have the same effect as a book (nor should it). Movies are transient singular experiences. They last longer than a stage production, but they should be viewed the same way—as a particular rendition of a fixed story. Someone else can do it again later (differently), but the book will be the same.

As for the Narnia movies in particular, I think they’re doing service to the books (hundreds of thousands of additional units moved), but yes, I would have done things a little differently. But more power to them.

via An Interview with N.D. Wilson on Screenwriting The Great Divorce – Justin Taylor.

C. S. Lewis translates Virgil

Is it a good idea to publish EVERYTHING that a good author wrote?  His notes, scraps, unfinished projects, and what he never intended for publication because it wasn’t good enough?  I have my doubts, but it appears that we are getting virtually everything from C. S. Lewis.  Just out from Yale University Press, no less, is C. S. Lewis’s translation of Vergil’s Aeneid:  C. S. Lewis’s Lost Aeneid: Arms and the Exile.

Well, it’s actually only the first book of the Aeneid, along with fragments of the other eleven.  Still, a true Lewis fan can’t help but be interested.  It would be worth tracing Virgil’s influence on Lewis, and a work like this can show us Lewis’s imaginative response to the great epic in ways that may illuminate its translator’s own original work.

Sarah Ruden, herself a translator of classical literature, likes Lewis, but she doesn’t think much of this work as a translation of Virgil.  She does, though, have some interesting things to say about both writers.  See  C. S. Lewis as Translator from Books and Culture.

Atlas Shrugged, said, “whatever”

Christians sometimes sit around hoping that if we just had a hit movie that would communicate the Biblical worldview we would impact the culture and bring the secularists to Christ.  Ayn Rand fans, despite their atheism, apparently have the same fantasies.  The much-anticipated movie version of Atlas Shrugged, Rand’s novel on the virtue of selfishness, has come out.  Apparently, like other “message films,” including those about Christianity, it doesn’t really work.  So says conservative film critic Roger Simon, who then offers some specific critiques:

Regarding character, the two leads are less than paper thin. We know little of them other than their willfulness and their pro-business ideology. No much for the actors to play. This is fine for subsidiary characters but fatal in protagonists. Still, this might be okay if this were in the service of a compelling plot. But the plot of the film is worse than silly. It is politically wrong-headed. A movie about super trains in the American West in 2016? Unlike when the book was written, these days that is the very thing that Barack Obama is proposing – with government subsidies – and conservatives are currently opposing for good reason. Super trains don’t work in the Western states economically. We need better roads. But not in this movie, which seems stuck in those fifties while pretending to be 2016 (a weirdly non-technological 2016 I might add). As a business movie, it fails. The whole concept needed rethinking.

via Roger L. Simon » What Conservatives Can Learn from the Atlas Shrugged Film Fiasco.

Have any of you seen it?  Would you agree on its badness?

 

Pro-abortion theology

Katherine Jean Lopez quotes from “O, Beautiful,” a play by Theresa Rebeck, which is getting praise in the New York Times:

‘This is a loving, caring Jesus,” is how the director of a play involving abortion described a leading man to the New York Times.

The play, written by a Notre Dame grad, recently took to stage at the University of Delaware. The dialogue includes a gal asking Christ: “Did you ever say, ‘I’m Jesus, and I say that stupid girls who let guys talk them into going to the back seat of their cars have to have babies?’ Did you say that ever?”

“No,” Jesus replies.

“All you talk about is, be nice to each other!” the teenager continues. “You never said nobody’s allowed to have an abortion.”

The fictional Jesus confirms her assertion.

“So can I? Can I? Can I?” she asks.

“Honestly, I — I don’t really have an issue with it,” Jesus tells her.

Honestly?

Honestly. Rather than uplift and challenge, the hallmark of great art, this just seems to bring Jesus down to our broken level. Where’s the hope in that?

via Defining Divinity Down – Kathryn Jean Lopez – National Review Online.

What shallowness.  What bathos.  What flaming ignorance.  What a reduction of Christ’s teachings.  “Be nice.”  But no one has to be nice to the baby.

 

 

Why Magician’s Nephew will be the next Narnia movie

Well, the Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie didn’t do so well, even worse than Prince Caspian.  Still, as we blogged about earlier, Walden Media is forging ahead with The Magician’s Nephew.  In an interview with Christianity Today, the head of that studio explains why:

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe opened in December 2005 to a massive audience, earning more than $1 billion in box office ($745 million) and DVD sales ($332 million) combined. Critical reviews were good (76 percent positive at Rotten Tomatoes), and the franchise was off to a great start.

But then came the next two films—2008′s Prince Caspian and 2010′s Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Caspian brought in less than half of the domestic box office that LWW had drawn, and VDT only about a third as much. Critical ratings at Rotten Tomatoes dropped from 76 percent positive for LWW to 67 percent for PC to a tepid 50 percent for VDT, which releases to DVD and Blu-Ray this week

With the dropping numbers, we asked Flaherty if the franchise was in trouble, and if not, which of the Chronicles would be the next film? The Silver Chair comes next in the sequence of books, but Flaherty said Walden and 20th Century Fox, which distributes the movies, have mostly decided on The Magician’s Nephew—Narnia’s “origins story”—for their next project. (Narnia scholar Devin Brown says Lewis himself would agree with that choice; see his reasons here.)

Why do The Magician’s Nephew next?

It’s a creative decision in terms of what story we felt has the best opportunity to draw the largest audience. The box office has pretty closely followed the sales pattern of the books.

Prince Caspian sells about half of the books of Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, and it did about half of the box office. Caspian sells about a third more books than Dawn Treader, and it did about a third more box office. That pattern continues to decline with Silver Chair being the weakest book in the series in terms of consumer demand.

We just think the origin tale of The Magician’s Nephew is a great one, and it brings back the characters that have proven to be the most popular—a lot of Aslan and the White Witch. It explains the origin of the lamppost and the wardrobe. The order of these books is something that few people agree on anyway. While Silver Chair certainly continues Eustace’s adventure, we never knew when Magician’s Nephew would come in the sequence of films. We never assumed it would be last, and we never assumed it would be first.

A lot of people say The Magician’s Nephew is their favorite.

In book sales, it is right behind The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. If you look at the superhero stories or any great franchise in recent years, they all have an origin story. We’ve yet to make our origin story. But rather than lead with Magician’s Nephew, we’re following Lewis’s lead on this—that it’s a lot more interesting if you’ve been teased with these things, like the wardrobe, rather than explain it right up front. Once people are familiar with the lamppost, the wardrobe, Narnia, and Aslan, Magician’s Nephew is a lot more powerful, to go back and explain where all of this came from.

via The Lion, the Witch, and the Box Office | Movies & TV | Christianity Today.

Why We Need Jane Austen

My colleague Mark Mitchell on why Jane Austen still resonates with young people today and what they can learn from her:

Reading Pride and Prejudice with a group of bright and interested students has been a delight. Austen can charm students in 2011 and, given the multitude of voices and volumes competing for their attention, this is no small feat. But what, exactly, is it that makes Austen such a good teacher today? The question, itself, suggests that Austen is more than a good read, more than an escapist literary drug, more than a comedy of manners.

I want to suggest that Austen provides something for which young people—even the jaded ones—secretly long. While the world she depicts is in many ways foreign to us, it is only just different enough to bring our own pathologies into clearer relief. In short, Austen reminds us of the largely forgotten categories of the lady and the gentlemen. It is her genius to make us aspire to these roles even in a world where such notions are strange and often ridiculed. . . .

Austen’s gentlemen (I’m thinking especially of Darcy here) understand the call of duty; they are committed to family, reputation, propriety, and self-control. To be sure, Darcy takes himself quite seriously, but aren’t these pursuits serious by nature? To neglect one’s duty, to be careless of one’s family and reputation, to ignore the bounds of propriety and to indulge the appetites without restraint are not the actions of a gentleman. They represent, conversely, the behavior of a boor. Or, perhaps equally fitting, they are the actions of a male who has no sense of what it means to be a man. Such characters may be Guys or Peter Pans but they are not men and surely not gentlemen.

Austen’s ladies are likewise conscious of their place in society and understand that the bounds of propriety must be observed. And while it is no doubt a gain that women today are not threatened with ruin if they don’t marry, we should not overlook the social benefits latent in a society that makes marriage the ideal. The ideal lady in Austen’s world (and here I’m thinking of Elizabeth) is strong-minded and clearly the equal of any man. She is quick witted, self-confident, and an independent thinker who will not bow and scrape before a social superior such as Lady Catherine de Bourgh nor will she accede to marry any man she does not both love and respect. Like a gentleman, a lady is constrained by social limits that direct behavior even as those limits make interaction between the sexes intelligible.

via Why We Need Jane Austen or How to be a Gentleman with Examples Good and Bad | Front Porch Republic.


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