• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


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    Friday, December 10, 2010

    Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Ten Commandments

    I saw the new Chronicles of Narnia film, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, yesterday and my review went up at rejesus this afternoon. I'm always limited to around 500 words which means that I often don't get to make all the points I'd like to in these reviews.

    One such point regards the green mist that kidnaps slaves from the Lone Islands never to be seen again. Now this mist isn't itself found in the novel - the book is rather episodic and so would lend itself much more readily to a TV series. It actually seems to be drawn from two elements of the next book - "The Silver Chair". Here the main plot is that Caspian's son has been kidnapped, and later on it emerges he is kept sedated / enchanted by a witch using green mist.

    What struck me in watching this device in play was the similarity of the effect with Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 film The Ten Commandments. There a similar looking mist crawls along the ground, only rather than an undisputed force for evil, it's intended to represent God's Angel of Death, only rather than entrapping slaves as it does in Dawn Treader, it is liberating them. The parallel highlights the troubling nature of the text and, as a result on this occasion, DeMille's adaptation.

    I don't have much to add to what I said in my review about the link between Aslan and Jesus. The Jesus/Aslan of this film at least is much more the divine figure / Great Lion of faith than the Aslan of history. That's fine, although it doesn't interest me quite so much. The film loses some of the point of the book which is very much about a voyage of faith anyway, although I was pleased to see that the line about Aslan being known by another name in our world remained intact.

    There's one final thing to say about this film. After watching it I watched the review of it on Film 2010 starring Claudia Winkleman. She ended with the astonishing statement "We should also warn people... there’s a lot of religious symbolism...". I'm pretty miffed about this in honesty. I get that it's probably a "joke", and I worry that by objecting to it I might end up sounding like Lord Carey, but for goodness sake.

    Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode gave her a bit of stick about this today, mainly along the lines of it being such an obvious statement that a CS Lewis film would contain religious symbolism.

    For me though, it was the implication that religion is such a bad thing that people need to be warned off it which left a rather unpleasant taste in the mouth. People are of course entitled to their views (however snarkily phrased) but this programme isn't about discussing religion per se, nor is it about Winkleman's personal opinions.

    To be fair she may have been intending to criticise the film for it's heavy handed handling of the religious themes and the lack of subtlety it displays in this regard. I do agree actually agree with this, sort of, although this trait is more down to the book than the film. But if this was her intention then it was expressed most clumsily, which does rather reinforce the low opinion I formed of the show's new approach during the first programme in the series.

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    • At 7:44 pm, December 12, 2010, Blogger Juliette said…

      I absolutely agree with you - I thought Claudia's comment sounded very much like an implication that religious symbolism was inherently bad, which I find rather offensive! On the other hand, I thought the film did manage to be even less subtle than the book in that regard, which was quite an achievement!

    • At 1:53 pm, December 16, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      I've watched it and read all the books. I think what is (I dare to say) charming about C. S. Lewis books is the religious views in it. I was very afraid that in this movie (Dawn treader) they would stick too much to the adventures and forget the messages that Lewis wanted to bring out. I was very pleased when I saw that they didn't take the line where Aslan says that the kids could find Him in there world, but with a different name. I hadn't thought about how this book is a "voyage of faith", and I very liked how you pointed this out. I guess that's it when Aslan says they can't go back. They've grown, and always will grow in faith. But as we get older we have to pack up what we've learned so far and face the world to try to put some goodness in the mess. I really liked how in the movie they did show very well the kids growing up, achieving maturity. I guess that's what happens to us as we get to know God better and better: we grow into better people. I hope to see more movies comming up based on these novels, and I hope they don't lose the magic and the message that C. S. Lewis aimed for.

    • At 11:26 am, December 17, 2010, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Thanks to you both for your comments - very interesting.



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