From Page to Screen: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

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As a pretty hardcore Christmas fanatic (to the chagrin of everyone around me come mid-November), festive films are a staple of my life throughout winter. As an equally hardcore book nerd, it is only fitting that my favourites are often adaptations of books. Andrew Adamson’s adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the novel by C. S. Lewis, is a film that I cannot go without at this time of year. It is just the right amount of cosy to be watched on a rainy Sunday with a mug of hot chocolate as the sky darkens outside. I’m lucky to be old enough to remember the 2005 adaptation being released in cinemas, and I can still vividly recall my parents reading me the book long before that.

It is just the right amount of cosy to be watched on a rainy Sunday with a mug of hot chocolate as the sky darkens outside.

Adamson’s production is one of the most faithful book adaptations I have seen; most of the lines I remembered from reading the book as a child were planted straight into the screenplay (‘a tree of iron!’). The overstretched subplots that are often seen in book adaptations are nowhere to be seen, and the film fully captures the magic that C. S. Lewis created. Of course, having been written in the 1940s, the book is not entirely politically correct, so it was reassuring to see the film tweak some of the dialogue accordingly. Father Christmas telling Lucy that ‘battles are ugly when women fight’ would not have gone down well in 2005, let alone now.

In fact, I find that the changes that Adamson made to the story only add to the narrative. The book, however magical and charming, simply wouldn’t have translated to the silver screen without alterations. Most strikingly, the final battle seen in the film that lasts a good twenty minutes is over within just a couple of pages in the book. Adamson’s attempts to emphasise plot pressures and find excuses for epic panning shots of fantasy battle are tastefully executed, and the parallels of the Pevensies’ father fighting in World War II and the children battling for their lives in the magical realm are not lost on the viewer. 

We, unlike them, do not have to worry about when the next Christmas will come, but the uncertainty that they feel hits close to home.

The best films are the ones that have a new meaning every time you watch them. I watched The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe this month, just after reading the book, and found it remarkable how strongly the story manages to stay grounded in realism despite the fantastical setting. Yes, the Pevensies fall through a wardrobe and into a land where creatures from myth and legend are fighting a war rooted in magic, but that does not diminish the fact that they are just children very much out of their depth. As a child I remember thinking how old they seemed; how brave Lucy was, how Peter showed such assurance in the face of peril. Now, watching in my twenties in perhaps the most difficult year we’ll face, it was not the four siblings in the story I connected with, but rather the citizens of Narnia. It is hard to stay unwaveringly hopeful when the future is uncertain, and you can feel the weariness of the characters after having lived in tyranny for so long. We, unlike them, do not have to worry about when the next Christmas will come, but the uncertainty that they feel hits close to home.

The sense of otherworldly, unfathomable delight that C. S. Lewis weaves through his writing is at the core of the Christmas spirit.

Generally, the whole narrative focuses on purity and faith triumphing over evil, and whether you are religious or not, the sense of otherworldly, unfathomable delight that C. S. Lewis weaves through his writing is at the core of the Christmas spirit. The story is one that fills many with nostalgia, but this does not take away from the fact that it is just wonderful. Rightfully a literary classic, it has the joyous heart of festivity that can be enjoyed at any age.It is clear that the theme that drives the story of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, at its very heart, is hope. Particularly in the film, in which the hardships of loss and depravity are far more augmented than the fairytale-like book, this message of hope is a beacon that we could all do with this Christmas.

Image: SirisVisual via flickr

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