NarniaWeb Reviews Beyond Narnia DVD

NarniaWebber Dr. Elwin Ransom had the opportunity to review the new Beyond Narnia DVD which will be released on March 28th.

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‘Beyond Narnia’ opens visual door to Lewis

Beyond Narnia DVD

Beyond Narnia DVD

Like the Narnia series itself, C.S. Lewis: Beyond Narnia, releasing to U.S. DVD on March 28, works wonderfully on two levels. First, for those unacquainted with the Oxford scholar and author of numerous Christ-honoring books, the 54-minute mini-movie is an excellent introduction to the man behind the mythologies – the myths of Narnia and of himself.

Meanwhile, for those already familiar with Lewis from his own works, and dozens of books about him and his writings, it’s an excellent summary of his life, including multiple references to his story’s most famous dialogues and supporting cast. Nearly everything Lewis devotees might expect to find is included and brought to visual life in the framework of drama.

Lewis himself is portrayed by an excellent actor, who narrates the autobiography using numerous quotes from Lewis’s own books and stories.

Only the specifics of Mrs. Moore and Lewis’s newfound reasons for faith seems slightly over-compressed in the retelling. Mrs. Moore seems merely a bothersome presence who at first seems to want to serve Lewis too much – Lewis’s stepson Douglas Gresham recalls it was much worse. She and her daughter Maureen later vanish from the story without explanation.

Also, Lewis, while frequently questioning how God could allow Evil, never quite arrives to the true-life Lewis’s realization that “badness” can only exist if there truly is a God Who defines things as Evil. Later, of course, Lewis does come to faith in God, but the drama “accelerates” past the “motorcycle conversion,” specifically to Jesus Christ, that the real Lewis described.

However, most famous dialogues and scenes are reenacted nearly verbatim: the young Lewis’s first experience of joy when looking at his brother’s toy garden, the “wilder” definition debate with Prof. William T. Kirkpatrick, and the “true myths” discussion on the leafy road with J.R.R. Tolkien.

Joy Gresham and her famous relationship with Lewis comprise the drama’s latter half, and the actor portraying Joy reminded me of Margot Kidder (Lois Lane from the first Superman movies) – certainly enough to liven Lewis and his brother’s home at the Kilns. Their friendship and eventual marriage is appropriately bittersweet. Lewis quotes A Grief Observed while narrating her cancer and death.

Other actors are well-cast and bring to life more famous figures. Friendly Prof. Tolkien vigorously criticizes Lewis for mixing mythologies in Wardrobe. Lewis’s brother Warnie is good-humored and likeable. And Narnia fans may note that Prof. Kirkpatrick seems appropriately similar to Jim Broadbent’s portrayal of Prof. Kirke in the Wardrobe film version.

Narnia, though, despite the cover art, is not the focus of the story. But because the drama focuses on Lewis, viewers are unavoidably given seeming hints of the Chronicles simply because his life inspired much of them. In particular, watching a young Jack creeping about an old attic, or grieving the loss of his mother, evokes images of The Magician’s Nephew.

Meanwhile, images of Aslan abound throughout. Watch for just one reference on young Jack’s bedroom wall, when his mother leaves the room. Jack had said his prayers to “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” when the camera reveals the miniature figure on his wall – perhaps subtly suggesting that the Biblical Christ and the Great Lion that He inspired are actually not at all “mild” or tame. Watch for more Lions here and there, including a maquette version on Lewis’s desk that seems in mid-leap toward a cross.

Much like Aslan in Narnia, then, by learning more of Lewis’s life here, we can often find we know his imagined worlds better there. Beyond Narnia, while by no means exhaustive, is a superb beginning.

–Dr. Elwin Ransom

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We’d like to thank the good Doctor for his excellent review!