Friday, October 26, 2012

Cinema 2005: Children escape adult world, build better future

In his 2005 cinematic adaptation of author C. S. Lewis's "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe," filmmaker Andrew Adamson created a graceful and visually stunning world of childhood desires and demands.

Following a well-balanced screenplay co-written with Ann Peacock, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, Adamson captures for the screen the sense of wonder present in
the original novel. Computer generated images serve the creation of a world characterized by a child's innocent sense of wonderment -- a kingdom where goodness and love are inherent human traits.

The key to this film's success is that it focuses on the human characters who are at the center of the tale, namely, the four siblings who have been plunged into the real life nightmare of the London Blitz.

At the film’s outset we, too, are plunged into this terror during scenes where Luftwaffe bombers drop ordnance onto the children’s north London neighborhood of Finchley. The partial destruction of their house brings home the war their father is off fighting, a war their country is losing.

After this harrowing episode, Mom wastes no time in whisking her brood off to the English countryside to live with an eccentric professor on his sprawling estate out of range of the Nazis. The English countryside itself might as well be Narnia, so much does its bucolic tranquility contrast with the chaotic killing in the British capital.

It is through the unpretentious portal of a walk-in closet, or wardrobe, in the professor’s country house that the children find their way into Narnia. Who cannot recall hiding as a child in a similar dark closet, happy to dream of the world as it should be, and reluctant to return to the incomprehensible cruelty of grown-up reality.

The children are by no means portrayed as perfect angels, but their individual personalities have been influenced greatly by the world of grown ups. Even the betrayal by Edmund (Skandar Keynes) can be traced to this world of adults. As the younger son, Edmund suffers more greatly from the absence of his father, and misses his father’s direction more deeply, while jealously resisting guidance from his elder brother Peter (William Moseley). Meanwhile Edmund’s inexperience in artifice leaves him more vulnerable to the treachery of Jadis, the White Witch (Tilda Swinton).

Peter’s greater maturity and closer ties to an absent father prepare him for the responsibility that he will be called upon to assume, and which is the hallmark of growing up.

When the witch is finally defeated, and the children's escapist kingdom is liberated, they are free to mature into loving and respectful adults in a world full of goodness with all its childlike wonder intact.

The supporting cast of characters is vast, as befits an epic, and includes such mythical creatures as centaurs, gryphons, a flame-throwing phoenix and a unicorn. There are dwarves and even Father Christmas makes a cameo to underscore the important role of hope in our lives, and to bestow meaningful gifts upon the children. Some animals can speak, for example the lion Aslan, voiced by Liam Neeson.

Despite Aslan's mostly “non-allegorical” depiction in the film, he can be interpreted narrowly as an allegory for Christ, a fact that stirred some silly controversy when the film was released. Adamson’s film does not proselytize on behalf of any religion and it would be a shame to prevent children of any age from enjoying this marvelous spectacle due to an unwarranted concern about religious propaganda.

“Narnia,” rather, can be viewed simply as a parable about the inherent goodness of humankind and the need to nurture this goodness in children. The land of Narnia provides both an imaginative escape for the “children interrupted” by the cruel adult world at war, as well as a place for them to practice the adult values of self-sacrifice, loyalty to friends in need and love of family.

No comments:

Post a Comment