April 9th, 2006

books, reading, ardizzone, library

turkish delight

We watched The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe last night. My pedantry was appeased by the excellent casting of Tilda Swinton and the two kids who played Lucy and Edmund (particularly Edmund, who was absolutely perfect. And Edmund was always my favourite character). But it was enraged by the total change of the book's tone into something self-consciously "epic", and the huge emphasis on Peter being a patriarchal hero. I mean, the battle in the book takes up literally half a page, and in the film it takes up about half an hour.

I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at Easter when I was five - heavens, that was exactly 25 years ago now - and it was the first "proper" book I ever read. After reading it once, I immediately re-read it again and did so a few more times until my parents started to worry I'd never read anything else and forced a copy of The Silver Chair into my paws. Watching the film made me realise how well I know the book - there are few things about which I can be quite so ridiculously pedantic. I realised that I was expecting certain lines and was rather disappointed that they left out some of my favourites (especially the Witch's most creepy bits, like the dwarf saying that the thaw is Aslan's doing and the Witch just saying "if anyone uses that word again, he will instantly be killed", which chilled me to the bone as a child and is still a good nasty line). Why did they change the bit when Edmund is rescued, in which the witch and the dwarf escape by turning into tree stumps and then, very creepily, turning back into themselves when everyone has gone? Where was the doomed Christmas party and the little squirrel who "loses his head" and beats the table with his spoon in excitement (I loved him!)? And while Mr Tumnus was great, he was too obviously up to no good, and his confession wasn't as shocking as it is when you first read the book (a quarter of a century later, I still remember my total horror when he said that his dreadful crime "is something that I'm doing right now"). I couldn't understand why they left those bits out - perhaps some of them weren't Lord of the Rings rip-offish "epic" enough, but they were some of the best, most memorable parts of the book.

So in conclusion: not a bad film, some great acting, but the tone was totally wrong. And considering my pedantry and the fact that this is basically the book that introduced me to literature, that is actually quite high praise.