What’s Narnia about? Tilda Swinton tells us it’s "anti-religious."

Tilda Swinton tells Christians they’re “welcome” to Narnia and what it means. And what does it mean?

That good and evil should exist together in balance.

That righteousness is a dangerous idea.

That the White Witch isn’t a threat to Narnia… she is Narnia.

And that the story is about the children finding strength in themselves, not in God.

Further, she’s apparently unsure whether there is evil in the world.

“The Christians are welcome,” [Swinton] says, with composed irony. “As everyone is welcome. Honestly, the connection had to be explained to me. And the more I got to know about Lewis … I know he was a very devout Christian and that he was capable of writing, as he did his entire life, very obviously Christian tracts. This is not one of them.”

Narnia is undoubtedly spiritual, she says, but its world derives from myths and legends that prefigure the religion of tracts. “In fact, if anything – and I cannot believe I am going to say this – I think it is almost anti-religious,” she says.

“What I mean by that is that it’s about children learning to draw not on any kind of dogma or doctrine but on their own resources, outside of the box. Outside their family, outside parental guidance, outside anything. The thing about Narnia is that it takes you to the heart of yourself, your own conscience and your own experience, and so I think it is so much wider than any religion could be, actually.”

If there is evil in the world, she thinks it lies in the lack of doubt. “The incapacity to be compassionate, to be humane and changeable. I am very intrigued by the idea of the righteous. I am suspicious of it, being human. I think that human nature is so much more interesting than that; doubtlessness is not helpful to human beings. So to start the year as the Angel Gabriel in Constantine – and that is the film for the Christians, by the way, not this one – and finish it with the White Witch is a sort of little meditation for me on that idea.”

If there is evil in the world. I know, looking at the headlines of the past few years, it’s difficult to say if there’s evil in the world. But if there is, surely evil lies in Christians and their lack of doubt. Yeah. THAT’S the root of all of our problems. I think Swinton should just go on tour, she could inspire people even more powerfully than Bono with speeches like that.

I mean, what was wrong with me? I thought the White Witch was the villain of the piece, the one Aslan needed to overcome. But Swinton sets me straight.

“The Witch is a force of evil and Aslan is a force of good and they are absolutely in balance one with the other. I am Narnia, in a way … One of the things I enjoyed developing was the costume, because I was determined that her costume should not look as if it had been made. That it should look like Narnia, that her dress be the side of a hill or her crown should be made of ice.”

Anybody else want to insist the film is faithful to the book, with its Aslan and its witch “in balance with one another”?

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  • DanBuck

    This is probably a dead horse, but your right Chris.

    The headmaster is probably guilty of saying one or two sentences too many.

    It is woth noting that he probably didn’t even know Michelle.

    She stopped going to the school in ninth grade to play the “girl with a bad reputation” on Dawson’s Creek.

    That of course, makes me wonder even more at the intentions of the author of the article. I wonder if he interviewed any Christian tollbooth operators whom Michelle has patronized to see what they think of her gay movie. :)

  • Chris Durnell

    The sad fact is that too often the first response of such “Christian” organizations is to descend to tribalism rather than the gospel.

    Regardless of what motives Jeff may have attributed, the headmaster clearly derogated his former student with accusations of his own.

  • DanBuck

    Your humble response is inspiring.

    I probably would’ve been fuming at you for a day or two if the roles had been reversed.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Very well. Perhaps I fell for the reporter’s bait. I’ll go back and edit my response.

    Thanks, Dan. I appreciate you being willing to come after me on this one.

    Jeffrey

  • DanBuck

    Jeff

    You know I love ya. But I think this is a pretty broad handed swipe. While the school may be limited in their understanding and compassion toward homosexuals, this is hardly an opportunistic move on their behalf to garner attention.

    In fact, it’s quite the ooposite. They could very well have cashed in on having a “Hollywood Star” as an alum, but instead they declined a day that would have been a publicity field day for them. Note this paragraph from the article:

    “Not so proud is Santa Fe Christian headmaster Jim Hopson. “We don’t want to have anything to do with her in relation to that movie,” said Hopson, who turned down a request from a Union-Tribune reporter to visit the school and chat with students about the movies and one of their own being up for an Academy Award.”

    It looks to me as though the school was approached, and maybe even baited by a reporter who thought it interesting that a girl in a “gay movie” came from Christian roots.

    The headmaster said no, and that he wasn’t interested in being associated with her in the context of this movie.

    If the school holds to the idea that homosexuality is in fact a sin (as they probably do) they actualy held to their beliefs despite the oppportunity for a national spotlight.

    I’m not defending their “disowning” (although those are reporter’s words that seem unfair), but I will protest your speculation that they were looking for the chance to get theuir name in lights as anti-homosexual.

    Knowing a bit about the media and how they work, I think they had two roads to take here, the easy road that would’ve embraced the film and gotten them some great publicity but compromised their values, or they could pass and be villianized by this newspaper and subsequent bloggers looking for a fixed fight. They chose the latter.

    Maybe they’re heroes.

  • Martin

    Hey, I took Anonymous’ advice and found this juicy little tidbit from Swinton over at Narniaweb:

    “The character, Jadis, created Narnia as a state of mind and then she froze it.”

    Say what? Did you read the book, or smoke it?

    “And being the epitome of, of all evil, of course, and this comes very strongly from the book, she’s covered in fur.”

    Yep, the book should carry a PETA endorsement because one of its main points is that wearing fur is evil (which, of course, means that the Pevensie children are just as evil as the witch: they arrive in Narnia wearing fur coats they’ve nicked from the wardrobe).

    The URL for Swinton’s preceding remarks:

    http://tinyurl.com/djbms

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Ummm… yeah, feel free to check any interview with her and you’ll see that she’s saying things like this all the time. Anonymous, did you click on the link? Did you read the article? We’re not making this up. And “The Age” has been around for a long time–it’s not some made-up publication. Swinton has said all kinds of things like this.

    You can’t just negate what has been reported. You need to show us some kind of evidence to support your claim.

  • Anonymous

    this blog is crap!
    they changed the text to make her seem so bad. Go to any site that has an interview with her talking about “Narnia” and you will clearly see that, that this is not what she said.
    Open your eyes people!

  • Peter T Chattaway

    Balance? But help me out here… Aslan returns from the dead, and the witch becomes kitty-chow.

    Well, as far as the film’s concerned, that’s only because he was smarter than she was when he “interpreted” the Deep Magic.

    As for the “Catholicism” of Tolkien’s books, I for one certainly found traces of it in Peter Jackson’s films — the way Aragorn semi-crosses himself when Boromir dies, the way Arwen prays that the grace given to her be passed on to Frodo, the way Gandalf is “sent back” (by who? hmmmm), etc., etc.

  • The Cubicle Reverend

    The same thing happened when LOTR came out. There was a total denial of Tolkiens catholicism being aparent in his work. How does this suprise you. People want to deny faith any chance they can.

  • bmoorewdm

    Balance? But help me out here… Aslan returns from the dead, and the witch becomes kitty-chow.

    I don’t think Swinton’s philosophical confusion accurately reflects the story that was actually told in the movie. Maybe she just needed to keep telling herself this, so that she could feel ok about being involved in a “Christian” tale.

    OK, I will grant there is something to the “Aslan was diminished” complaint that I’ve read here and elsewhere. But was there really any doubt about who was in charge by the end?

  • g0ldfi5h

    Regardless of Tilda Swinton’s comments, I do think the writer of the article had a point:

    Any “Christian subtext” thus becomes “dodgy”, as Zoe Williams has noted. The implication of that “dodgy”, she wrote, is that Christianity is “inherently unsound, as if it had, without our noticing, ascended to the ranks of anachronistic wrong-headedness, like Nazism or hissing at single mothers”.

    It seems unfair to everyone, including – but perhaps not especially – C.S. Lewis himself. Forget those awful evangelists for a moment. Really, there is no good reason why a fantasy story should not be based on Christian narratives and iconography. Our entire culture, after all – most notably the laws of the land – derives from a Judeo-Christian understanding of the world. There is no good reason why he should not recount the Resurrection, albeit using furry animals instead of humans as dramatis personae.

  • Anonymous

    Regardless of Tilda Swinton’s comments, I do think the writer of the article had a point:

    Any “Christian subtext” thus becomes “dodgy”, as Zoe Williams has noted. The implication of that “dodgy”, she wrote, is that Christianity is “inherently unsound, as if it had, without our noticing, ascended to the ranks of anachronistic wrong-headedness, like Nazism or hissing at single mothers”.

    It seems unfair to everyone, including – but perhaps not especially – C.S. Lewis himself. Forget those awful evangelists for a moment. Really, there is no good reason why a fantasy story should not be based on Christian narratives and iconography. Our entire culture, after all – most notably the laws of the land – derives from a Judeo-Christian understanding of the world. There is no good reason why he should not recount the Resurrection, albeit using furry animals instead of humans as dramatis personae.

  • Tompaul

    I think that Jadis wearing Aslan’s mane at her death is as amazing a depiction of blasphemy as I’m ever likely to see. The movie has more than its share of pieces lacking, but it also got some things stunningly right (e.g. her futile zapping of a butterfly). Though I wish Aslan had been better developed, I saw Aslan’s power through the futility of the witch’s.

    Maybe it’s telling that of the two movies, Kong feels too long, and Narnia feels too short.

  • the wild man

    she’s either a freakin’ eejit or as JP stated simply staying in character..maybe she ate too much Turkish Delight and it scrambled her little grey cells?

  • Foolish Knight

    No wonder I disliked her costumes so much. What a sad way to look at things.

  • jasdye

    i’m gonna agree with josh here, just chillingly evil.

    boy, can’t wait for da vinci crap. let stupidity reign supreme.

  • josh

    what’s that quoted from? did i miss the reference?

    gosh, she really WAS casted well…!

  • Jeremy P.

    Hey, she’s just continuing on with her role – just a little weird because she actually believes some of this stuff. If I were the director, I would say “Why do you think we picked her?”

    Isn’t it obvious that not everyone making the movie has to agree with Swinton? I highly doubt Adamson or Gresham do. I’m sorry, but one actress can’t explain to everyone what the story means.

    It’s also still hard for me to view Aslan and the Witch as equals when watching the movie. It didn’t really seem like there was any doubt that Aslan could take her out whenever he decided to.


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