Friday, December 10, 2010

Faithful to Lewis?

John Nolte at Big Hollywood interviews Walden Media President Michael Flaherty about, among other things, whether the integrity of Christian themes in Voyage of the Dawn Treader remain in the film. It is obvious that Flaherty, at least, is familiar with C.S. Lewis's work far beyond Narnia. His answers are encouraging and, starting this weekend, we can judge for ourselves. Flaherty:
.... While Lewis would argue that Narnia is not an allegory, rather a “supposal”, there are strong Christian themes in the book that were influenced by Lewis’ worldview. Further, Lewis’ main focus in writing Dawn Treader was “the spiritual life.” While every book encounters some changes from the page to the screen, we wanted to make sure that the themes that were important to Lewis – redemption, temptation, grace, and our yearning for our true home – were not only preserved, but amplified through the changes that we made with the script. There were a number of lines from the book that were important to preserve verbatim as well. Most important are Aslan’s lines at the end when he tells Lucy “In your world I have a different name. You must learn to know me by it. That is the whole reason you came to Narnia. By knowing me better here you would know me better there.”

We felt a sacred trust with this scene not only to be faithful to the book, but to be faithful to all of Lewis’ writing. The topic of longing was a theme in so much of what Lewis wrote. My favorite passage in all of Lewis’ writing comes from Mere Christianity, where he delivers the famous insight that “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” In The Problem of Pain Lewis writes about desiring “something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside.”

Reepicheep is the very embodiment of this longing. At the beginning of the film, we hear Reep reciting his lullaby. He then talks to Lucy about his hope and desire to make it to Aslan’s country. When he finally arrives there at the end, the scenery is breathtaking. Reep delivers an incredibly moving speech to Aslan about his longing and desire for his country. I won’t ruin it for you, but it draws heavily upon the passage in The Problem of Pain where Lewis writes about something we “were born desiring,” and that even our greatest moments have been but “tantalizing glimpses” of it. When Reep abandons his sword and bravely sets sail in his little coracle, it will send shivers down the spines of all friends of Narnia.

Finally, there is the critical scene of Eustace’s undragoning. We had a nice workshop during the script development about grace being something that cannot be earned – it can only be given. So we wanted to make sure that this critical concept was conveyed with the undragoning, but we added a battle between Eustace the dragon and the sea serpent.

Here is the way it plays out: Reepicheep encourages a very reluctant Eustace to do battle with the Sea Serpent. Reep makes it clear in a way that only he can – that there must not be any retreat or any surrender. To do so would spell certain death for everybody aboard the Dawn Treader. Yet after some initial fighting, Eustace retreats to protect himself, despite Lucy pleading to him to come back to help them and despite his knowledge that he is most certainly leaving them to die.

He makes his way back to the safety of an Island, defeated and ashamed. He tries desperately to rip off his dragon skin, but he realizes that he cannot do it himself. That is when Aslan approaches Eustace to rip off his dragon skin for him. It is clear in the film that this in not being done in return for anything that Eustace has done – but in spite of it. At a time when Eustace feels more friendless than ever, he realizes that Aslan is the one person who will never abandon him. It is a great illustration of grace..... [more of a very informative interview]
Flaherty also says that whether Silver Chair will be filmed depends entirely on the success of Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Assuming it is made, the next would be The Magician's Nephew.

Big Hollywood » Blog Archive » Exclusive Interview: Walden Media President Michael Flaherty on ‘Dawn Treader,’ the Liam Neeson Controversy, and the Franchise’s Future