Monday, October 10, 2005

Save a Tree, Produce a Movie

I had an interesting conversation the other day. I was asked if I had seen “Gone with the Wind”, and I said, quote, “read the book, never got to see the movie”. The person looked at me with a mix of pity and contempt and replied:

“Not many Americans could say that. “Read the book, never got to see the movie!” Here in America, this movie is classic!”

Oh, is it, really? Well, last I checked, so was the book. Here in America.

It’s amazing how in people’s minds, a movie version of a book somehow trumps the book itself. I don’t understand that. Although, wait, I think I do. The way I see it, when you’re reading a book, you are forced to use your imagination. You have to come up with your own vision of what the characters or the scenery looks like. The movie, on the other hand, presents it all to you in an easily digestible form. You don’t have to strain your brain too much. That is not to say that I never watch movies at all. But, if it is a book hitting the big screen, then, one, I want to make sure I’ve read the book first, and, two, I am not going to perceive the movie as anything other than the producer’s personal vision of the events in the book. Basically, to me, it is on the same level with illustrations. Nothing more, nothing less.

My friend the pastor once forgot this rule, and went to see the first picture of the LOTR trilogy before reading the book. Later, he wrote to me referring to LOTR as a bunch of gore, monstrosity, and senseless violence. I didn’t know what to think as there is obviously a lot of Christian allegory in the trilogy, so I assumed that my pastor friend, of all people, would like it. I had no idea what he was talking about. Finally, I asked him if he had read the book, and he said no. He actually did read it later, and only then did it begin to dawn on him what LOTR really was all about. I, on the other hand, saw all three movies and found them a rather good, incredibly spectacular, fairly-close-to-the-text (although there were quite a few deviations) interpretation of the actual trilogy. It never occurred to me to view these movies as a thing in themselves, when they are in fact nothing but an illustration to the book.

Last week, I came across an interesting post on Internet Monk's site, where he wonders whether the movie version of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe that is scheduled to come out this Christmas, will ruin the book for its viewers. (Of course, with The Chronicles of Narnia, there’s also the whole Christian marketing thing factoring into the equation – the issue that the Monk is also addressing). Check it out, it is a good read. The comments are just as good as the post.

Here are some excerpts:

We've already been through this, in some measure, with The Lord of the Rings. Did the films present the books well? I say yes, but I also want to immediately say that the greatness of the film's visual artistry cannot, in any way, be compared to the universe Tolkien created in the novels. If all future generations know is the movies, they have been cheated.

I am afraid future generations are likely to be cheated by films that will be excellent, but which cannot put the magic on the screen, no more than the magic of Harry Potter can be portrayed in the excellent films made from those stories.


If what we have reduces the readers of Narnia books to watchers of Narnia movies, we will all be cheated, no matter how good the films are (and I expect them to be very good.)

I hope I'm wrong, and that after the Aslan stuffies are off the shelf, Peter's sword has gone out of stock at Toys 'R Us, and the Wardrobe is no longer available at Target, the Narnia books will survive and be read more than ever. I hope that after Narnia youth rallies and Narnia church growth emphasis and Narnia sermon series, we will have more people reading Lewis than ever.

Lewis never intended the Narnia books to be evangelistic tracts. It will be a perversion of the stories of the allegorical elements are forced to the front and rammed down the consciousness of unbelievers. Lewis was an apologist with a gently and respectful touch. Narnia lives as Narnia, and it lives as Christ's Kingdom. You can see both, or you can see either. Whatever you see will be a rich and wonderful experience...if you see them through Lewis's prose.

Can these wonderful touches be translated to the movies? I am skeptical. I hope for the best. I will be satisfied if we simply do little harm.

Thank you, Michael, now you got me worried!

So, what do you guys think? Can a movie version of a book kill the book by taking over and posing as the book itself? Can it complement the book? What’s with people watching the movies but not reading the books those movies originated from, and being proud of it? Is this an American thing? (I sure hope not). Will you go see the LWW when it comes out? Oh, and happy Monday!

The Goldie has spoken at 10:54 AM

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