Monday, January 09, 2006

Barb on Narnia to Pittsburgh

Here is a nice piece about Narnia which appeared in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. I found the journalist, Ann Rodgers, very enjoyable to talk to as she was completely uncynical. In the MSM, an uncynical journalist is two levels beyond very rare!

Here's the snip with me in it...

Christopher Mitchell, executive director of the Marion E. Wade Center, has lectured on Lewis for sponsors as diverse as the Smithsonian Institution and the Kazakh-American Free University in Kazakhstan.

"Non-religious audiences get tons out of ["Narnia"] because he writes about major human themes," he said.

"The sacrifice of Aslan is moving and powerful to a Hindu, to a Muslim or to an atheist. We all understand sacrifice."

But it is Christians who have kept most of his books in print since his death in 1963, and some can cite "Narnia" passages by heart. Barbara Nicolosi, executive director of Act One, a mentoring program for Christian screenwriters and executives in Hollywood, says Disney kept the movie true to Lewis' vision.

"The only flaws in the movie are the flaws that are in the book. It's not Shakespeare," she said.

Most changes flesh out the brief story or are alternative ways of visualizing inner transformations that the book's narrator describes. In the book, when Edmund eats enchanted candy, the description of its effect on him amounts to a treatise on how sin affects human behavior. The movie must use other images to show his fall from grace, and throws him into prison with the faun Tumnus, whom he betrayed.

"One thing that really came across well in the movie was the progression of evil. It draws you in because it is beautiful, but it keeps you because of fear," Ms. Nicolosi said.

Although her goal was to teach movie craft to Christians, Nicolosi has become an informal consultant to movie makers who have seen the monetary value of a Christian audience. Most are so profoundly secular that they are clueless about how to portray faith of any kind, she said. But, if only for its bottom line, Disney was determined to get this one right, she said. Furthermore, the production company with the rights to the story is headed by devout Presbyterian financier Philip Anschutz. He brought Lewis' stepson, Donald Gresham, on board as co-producer.

Mr. Gresham's involvement "told the Christians to relax because Doug Gresham isn't going to let his stepfather's books get wrecked," Ms. Nicolosi said.

"On the production side it meant that a lot of consideration and emphasis were given to things that would otherwise have gone over the heads of people at Disney. It meant that the heart of the themes of Lewis' works was preserved."

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