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July 27, 2006

Comments

Claire

I find it interesting that you had a deeper connection to the Narnia movie that just came out. I didn't connect with the movie that much at all. I didn't like the pacing of the film at all. It also didn't stick with me very well, and I'm trying to recall it so I can be a bit more specific here, but I can't recall why I didn't like it.

Helen

Although I had a very strong love-disappointment relationship with the LOTR movies, overall they did bring the books to visual life for me; I didn't NEED the movies, but oh how I wanted them! When I finally got them, there was so much in them that worked perfectly for me, that it made up for the few things that didn't work. But the Narnia movie (apart from the appalling, almost hilarious White Witch) got EVERYTHING right for me. I was given things in that movie that I never dared dream of. They not only captured the big, Narnia-wide atmosphere, they also pinpointed tiny little things that I loved. (With the exception of Father Christmas, who was perfect in himself, but he should have produced from his sack a huge tea tray with a steaming teapot and cups and sugar and cream!) They even hit the jackpot with seemingly less-important things like the casting of the Professor, who in the person of Jim Broadbent was not only perfect as the aged parent figure, but who also hinted at the young Digory who had had his own adventures in Narnia. Perhaps because of the huge budget and Tolkien-fan status of Peter Jackson, I somehow knew the LOTR movies would mostly work; with the Narnia movie I had no knowledge of how Andrew Adamson would treat my beloved LWW. He repaid my grudging optimism a thousandfold. And strangely, it's one of the extra features on the DVD that really hit home with me -- The Children's Magical Journey, which showed that Andrew was totally on the right track from the very beginning. It's a joy to watch the children and Andrew interact, and how together they truly brought the Pevensies and Narnia to life. The children truly seem to have had their own Narnia-like adventure. In other circumstances, it might be nauseating to see how happy and excited and genuinely involved everybody on the LWW set seemed to be -- but in this case, it just seems right, as if the spirit of C.S. Lewis was there all along, making sure everything went well and they all had a jolly good time.

Jeanne

It's funny, Helen, that we've taken opposing views of the same two characters.

Although the White Witch was very different in the movie than in the ILLUSTRATIONS (note emphasis) in the book, I thought that Tilda Swinton was an interesting choice. Very terrible, in the old sense of the word. And I usually like Jim Broadbent, but here he seemed to me just a bit of a caricature. Now, certainly English professors can be a bit eccentric, especially Edwardian ones, but I felt that he could have been eccentric without being a caricature. I think that I wanted him to be more like my mental picture of Professor Tolkien, in fact -- this likeness has just occurred to me.

I did miss Father Christmas's gift of tea, too, wh. would not have taken up more than a moment of screen time.

Interesting, that Claire, who is not especially familiar with the Tolkien books, likes those movies better than the Narnia one, which she thought was paced too quickly in some scenes. I started watching "LWW" again last night, but it's hard for me to see this, perhaps because I am so familiar with the story. (Besides the Luftwaffe opening, which I've already mentioned is disorienting, I noticed that the scene in which the children all go into the wardrobe has been changed subtly but significantly from the book. In the book, the children are "escaping" from Mrs. Macready and a group of people touring the house, but in the movie, the children are running away from her because of the broken window. I don't think that Peter, at least, would do this. He's the eldest, and seems to me the honest kind who would take responsibility, despite the rather dreadful consequences of the Macready's wrath -- and he already knows that the Professor is kind, so it seems out of character than he runs away. We see just a few scenes later how brave he is, when his first instinct is that they should help Mr. Tumnus. The window bit makes a good scene in the movie -- and gives Edmund the very funny line, "You bowled it!" -- but it doesn't seem right to me.)

Helen

Hee. It IS funny -- I guess with Jim Broadbent, I warmed to him (note adjective, because I think it was important that we felt warm about him) because he reminded me somehow of C.S. Lewis himself, especially for some reason, of photos of Lewis in his dressing-gown in his rooms at Magdalen College. (Broadbent's makeup also bore a strong resemblance to the Prof. as shown in the book.) I think our other beloved Prof, J.R.R., would have been entirely too intimidating, almost frightening, for young viewers of the Narnia movie! Like a very gruff, beetle-browed Gandalf. How funny.

Also, pooh to you with knobs on, re. the ILLUSTRATIONS -- Lewis was very much in favor of Pauline Baynes' illustrations, and I doubt he would have put up with anything that didn't sit perfectly well with his own image of his characters. As for "very terrible in the old sense of the word", oh pleeease. Pffft. Swinton was utterly, cringe-makingly laughable. Entirely 21st Century. Perplexingly drab, lacking any sense of real danger, not at all sharp-edged or inspiring true fear. Too 'fleshy', even in her skin-tone. She was dull, soft, and woolly, putting me more in mind of a grumpy pastel-colored sheep than the razor-sharp, ice-cold, implacable force that was Jadis, Empress of Charn! That's my theory and I'm sticking to it, so there. ;-)

(We're really and truly the best of friends, everybody, and as this is Jeanne's blog, and these amicable arguments could -- and probably will -- go on forever offline, I'm happy to admit defeat right now. But this is fun!)

Jeanne

With all due respect to my learned friend -- and she is so, far more than I -- and while I can see that the breadth and depth of Professor Tolkien's erudition could be daunting in the extreme (a quote via Wikipedia may suffice as illustration: "The surname Tolkien is Anglicized from Tollkiehn (i.e. German tollkühn, 'foolhardy', the etymological English translation would be dull-keen, a literal translation of oxymoron). The surname Rashbold of two characters in The Notion Club Papers is a pun on this"), my lasting mental image of Tolkien is of a pipe-smoking don sitting under a tree. Hardly an image to inspire fear, unless exams are tomorrow. I really can't see any connection between Jim Broadbent in the "LWW" movie with any of the photos of C.S. Lewis. Mostly the hair, I'm afraid.

(I cannot find any illustrations of Professor Kirke in the book. There is only one of the wardrobe, and a "long shot" of the house, in my Macmillan edition.)

"Drab and lacking danger"! Good heavens! I am picturing in my mind now the contrast between the book's illustration of the Witch marching Edmund through the thaw (with little stars on the tips of her pointed slippers), and the scene in which Tilda Swinton wields those two gleaming and very lethal broadswords. No contest as to which one I wouldn't like to meet!

Helen

OK, one last thing, I promise! I did say I'd admitted defeat. (Btw, "learned"? Ouch.) Just wanted to say there's an ill. of Professor Kirke with Peter and Susan on p.49 of my Puffin pbk ed. (1959) and his hair is v. bushy, in fact just like Jim Broadbent's, although I'm glad they toned down the beard, because in the ill. it is positively Vikingesque! (Can't believe you don't have all the ill.? you have one of the Witch and Edmund, but what else? we must compare detailed notes some time. I will scan the Prof. and send it to you, can't find it online.) And if you are keen, there's some interesting stuff on Lewis and Pauline Baynes at:
http://www.cbn.com/special/Narnia/excerpts/insideNarnia_LucyLooks.aspx
(Funny what he said about her and her lions: "She can’t draw lions, but she is so good and beautiful and sensitive that I can’t tell her this". I always thought most of her Aslan drawings were pretty good!)

Jeanne

I said "learned" and I'm sticking with it!

I don't have that illustration in my Macmillan Am. ed.! On the facing page of that passage is the view of the house. The image you sent does show a certain, er, eccentricity, but the movie version, I still maintain, takes it another step, over the edge in my opinion. The movie version reminds me more of Digory's uncle Andrew, who also in my opinion takes too many steps into caricature.

The article in the link is interesting. I still remain a bit dubious about Lewis' gallantry, though. It sounds like one of those wonderful Englishisms wherein one expresses a disparaging opinion couched in extreme politeness.

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