My take on “Prince Caspian” the movie

C. S. Lewis’s “Prince Caspian” is, in his words, about the loss of the true religion and its restoration. Narnia has forgotten Aslan, most of the animals have stopped talking, and a rigid, freedom-denying materialism rules. The Pevensey children and a motley crew of “Old Narnians” are charged with restoring the old ways.

Thus, “Prince Caspian” is about our times and the challenge of re-evangelizing Western culture. That’s what my book, The Soul of Prince Caspian: Exploring Spiritual Truth in the Land of Narnia, is about.

The movie, though, which I finally saw yesterday, all but leaves out the book’s culture war themes! It is filled up with battle scenes of tedious havoc (who knows that allusion?), but leaves out completely Caspian’s backstory and the major symbolic episodes. Missing is Lewis’s treatment of the Telmarines’ atheism (“there is no such thing as lions!”), his devastating critique of progressive education, the exploration of walking by faith and not by sight, the Bacchus figure making the important point that Christian cultural influence should lead not to controlling others but to freedom, etc., etc.

I am not too bothered with cinematic additions to a book adaptation when it’s necessary to tell a written story through visual means. Sometimes an addition can even bring out and heighten something in the original story (as the movie does with its handling of bringing back the White Witch; also its depiction of Reepicheep and his fellow mice). But next time, let’s have a director who understands what the book MEANS! (I suggest Ralph Winter.)

Christian art as the cutting edge

Jan Swafford in “Slate” has a fine discussion of Bach’s “Art of the Fugue,” a recording of which is topping the classical charts. The article shows just how wild, avant garde, and mind-blowing the piece is. But especially noteworthy is that the article shows what music criticism can do on the web: Swafford includes audio links of snippets of music to illustrate aurally what he is talking about. See The surprising popularity of Bach’s complex, esoteric The Art of Fugue.

We have seen something similar in our recent postings on the art of Lucas Cranach, as experts are realizing just how innovative he was.

Here is the point: these devoutly Christian, yea, Lutheran, artists were not stodgy. Their faith did not prevent them from being creative, original, and cutting-edged. Indeed, I would argue that their faith opened their imaginations up to complexity, depth, and aesthetics of the highest order.

I have noticed that in English literature, the most overtly pious authors are also the most innovative: George Herbert reinvented poetry by breaking it free from a dependence on set stanzaic forms, inventing a new form to reflect the meaning of each poem. Milton pursued things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme. Hopkins re-invented poetry again, on the level of the very line and metric foot. Eliot invented literary modernism, not just before his conversion but afterwards as well.

Christian artists today, in whatever genre, will have no cultural impact as long as they merely follow the culture and try to emulate non-Christian artists. The very culture is crying out for something different, a way out of the current aesthetic and philosophical dead-ends. Christians, who have a basis for art that secularists lack, can lead our civilization out of its wilderness. If, that is, Christian artists can get in touch with that basis in the creativity of God, if they can take their part in the Christian artistic tradition, and if they can recover art as a Christian vocation.

Dante on Sin & Love

Thanks to Ball Point Blog for alerting me to the fact that my Table Talk columns are available online. I did not know that. I like writing for that magazine, since each issue has a special theme, and I, in effect, get assigned a topic. That forces me to think about things I otherwise would not. The topic for this month was “The Seven Deadly Sins.” Here is what I did with it.

Review “Prince Caspian”

I’ve been traveling, commencing, and grading papers, so I haven’t been able to see the “Prince Caspian” movie. Have any of you seen it? If so, how was it?

“Prince Caspian” the movie

Here is a preview of the next Narnia movie, an interview with the producer: Behind the scenes of ‘Prince Caspian’.

HT: The Pearcey Report

Hobbit, the Movies

The movie version of “The Hobbit” is getting under way. Here are some details:

Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro was named on Thursday to direct two movies based on the J.R.R. Tolkien book “The Hobbit” to build on the blockbuster success of “The Lord of the Rings” series.

Plans to make a two-part precursor to “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, based on Tolkien’s three-volume follow-up to his “Hobbit” story, were announced in December after settlement of a bitter legal dispute cleared the way for the project.

Del Toro, whose credits include “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Blade II,” will move to New Zealand for the next four years to work on both “Hobbit” films with executive producer Peter Jackson, who directed all three “The Lord of the Rings” movies, according to New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios.

The studios have said that filming will begin in 2009, with tentative release dates set of 2010 for the first film and 2011 for the sequel.

The plans call for del Toro to work back-to-back on “The Hobbit” and its sequel, which will deal with the 60-year period between that story and “The Fellowship of the Ring,” the first of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, the studios said.

Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” was a pretty remarkable fantasy movie, however creepy and depressing, so he should be OK. Jackson, who did such a good job with the trilogy, will be in charge. That this two-movie arrangement will include not just “The Hobbit” but will cover the 60 years before “The Fellowship of the Ring” is interesting, indeed. I guess that means that filmmakers will be taking on at least part of “The Silmarilion.”