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Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Ed Peters

Lewis must be spinning in his grave that people remember his opposition to a "TV" version of Narnia. Heck, I even thought the BBC version from, what, 20 years ago, was good looking.

Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.

I think it is in an essay on stories in, among other places, "Essays Presented to Charles Williams" that Lewis says of the filming of any literature "There is death in the camera". He explained that in a visual image, we are passive before the concrete images selected by the filmmaker. Whereas literature is both more universal and more particular; when we read "The old man walked through the meadow to the river", we have actively to supply all the images from our personal experience of old men, meadows, and rivers. The reader therefore actively participates (dangerous expression when used of the Liturgy)in the creation of the story. Tolkien and Lewis both speak of fantasy as providing an "other world", which is our portal to the only real other world, the supernatural. The images of film diminish the "otherness" compared to the written word. (No time to elaborate on that.) My conclusion: Lewis would not be enthusiastic about Faerie rendered into visual images. Except, perhaps, in that it would induce some to read the books who otherwise wouldn't.

Counterevidence: Tolkien himself drew images of Middle Earth and Lewis permitted drawings in the Narnia books.

Mark Brumley

It also appears that Lewis may have mellowed regarding film, since in his letter to the BBC producer Sieveking Lewis seems to have entertained the possibility of a cartoon adaptation of the Narnia stories.

The point about the reader supplying the images of the story he reads is an important one. Film can't replace that activity. However, film can do something else--provide a reader lacking in imagination or interpretive power with a deeper vision than he would otherwise have. Films can also give even the imaginative reader another way of seeing a story. These things can be enriching as well.

Sandra Miesel

The CGI Aslan is, of course, an electronic "cartoon" of especially high quality. Lewis did like Pauline Baynes illos for Narnia. It's a pity he didn't see the color ones she added in the '80s. If Lewis's remarks are taken to the extreme, they yield iconoclasm and would forbid all illustrations of literature. Good illustrations amplify the text rather than diminish it: would ALICE be "better" with Tenniel or WIND IN THE WILLOWS without Rackham? Or churches better without images?

Mark Brumley

Good points, Sandra.

Mark Brumley

Lewis scholar James Como has something interesting to say about Narnia and the book-to-film phenomenon:


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