Friday, May 16, 2008

Once a King or Queen in Narnia....

I watched the film Prince Caspian with much the same sentiments as when first reading the book thirty years ago. At ten years old, I so loved The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe that, after doubting that the sequel could compare, I was surprised and delighted to find an even more mysterious and exciting story. The film digresses from the book but not in a devastating way. In fact, some of the changes enhance the plot and the characters.

Again we join Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, also known as "the Pevensies," as they are literally swept into another dimension. The youngsters still have a great deal to learn in the land of Narnia, where they formerly ruled as kings and queens. They do not recognize their kingdom at first, so greatly has it been altered by many centuries. The realization of what has been destroyed sweeps over them as they uncover artifacts of their own past, almost like finding relics of a lost and beloved faith. It is before the broken altar of the Stone Table that the past and present merge. The four Pevensies know that they must be ready to sacrifice themselves for the Narnia; they have a bond with the land which time and space cannot erase. As C. S. Lewis wrote: "Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen in Narnia."

New friends and foes replace the old, including Prince Caspian himself, dashing, disinherited and untried. He belongs to the swarthy race of the Telmarines, descended from pirates, presumably Spanish ones, who long before stumbled into Narnia. Caspian and the Pevensies help each other not only win the freedom of Narnia, but to grow in humility and perilous self-knowledge. The rivalry between Caspian and Peter and the flicker of romance between Caspian and Susan are elements which, although not in the book, are surprisingly natural in the film. However, it was a bit odd to show a slip of a girl like Susan fighting robust, armored warriors, knocking them down.

In the book, Aslan is gradually revealed to each of the main characters according to their degree of faith. The film does not do this in the same manner so when Trumpkin the dwarf finally sees Aslan the impact is lost. Indeed, Aslan is absent from most of the film and, as in the book, the heroes and heroines feel abandoned. It is a fitting allegory for the dark night of the soul experienced by those seriously struggling along in the spiritual life. Events in Narnia spiral out of control, partly through the willful behavior of the kings, who need Susan and Lucy to remind them that Someone Else is really in charge. How often we need to be reminded of the same truth.

In Prince Caspian the kings and queens triumph over the ruthless Telmarines only by allowing humility, courage, and child-like trust to conquer pride, jealousy, and the reckless desire for revenge. In the meantime, myths spring to life as prophecy is fulfilled. The reclamation of Narnia does not happen without cost, without mistakes and death. Aslan returns, traditions are reclaimed as a new kingdom is built on the foundations of the old. In Narnia as in our own world, no matter how dark it may be, good can be brought out of anything. Share


Anonymous said...

I was so excited to learn this is playing here in Hyderabad--for a very limited only 5-day engagement! We went Friday night, only to find that it was afull house. Hopefully we can see it Monday! After your review, I want to see it all the more. :)


elena maria vidal said...

You will love it!