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Into the Mind of C.S. Lewis
« on: December 13, 2010, 03:56:08 AM »
By ANNIE S. ALEJO

Manila Bulletin - There are seven books that make up “The Chronicles of Narnia” and with the third series “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” already wowing audiences on the big screen, the renewed interest in legendary author C.S. Lewis has remained since “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” first debuted on screen in 2005.

C.S. Lewis, whose close friends called him Jack, was also friends with another legendary fantasy writer, J.R.R. Tolkien (“Lord of the Rings,” the trilogy was turned into Academy Award-winning movie adaptations). Lewis had a lifelong fascination with fairy tales, myths and ancient legends and this led him to write the first book of this series.

Douglas Gresham, one of his two stepsons, is the executive producer of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” Having been on set while the movie was being shot in Australia, Gresham has had the chance to see the extraordinary world of his stepfather come to life.

“I am the creative and artistic director of the C.S. Lewis Company, which is my day job. Making movies is a hobby on the side, although it has become bigger than the day job,” Gresham shares. “I probably know more about Narnia than any other living human being. I certainly know more about Jack than anybody still alive. It was my project to get these movies made at some stage in my life and I have very much been enjoying the process.

Gresham also shares a little bit of insight about what Lewis was like. Gresham recalls reading the first of the series, “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” when he was about six, in 1951. “It was read to me first by my mother. But Jack would read me bits of what he was writing. That was an interesting experience. Some bits I loved and some I didn’t like at all! I would tell him my thoughts and we used to laugh about it.”

Talking about his stepfather’s now-famous friendship with Tolkien, Gresham says, “Jack (Lewis) and Tolkien gathered together with other great literary minds, all great friends in a loosely affiliated literary group called ‘The Inklings’ and they would read their work to each other; whereupon the rest of the group would just tear it to shreds in criticism. And the result of that is that these works came out pure at the end of it. There is not a wasted word… not even a wasted comma because everything was torn apart and rebuilt in deep conversation with much merriment and lubricated by beer and tobacco smoke.”

Gresham notes that the men had a great time going through that process.  “But of course in today’s world authors couldn’t do that, because something we have lost is the value of understanding criticism. In the academic world today, if someone criticizes you or your work, it is becoming traditional to hate them for it. Back in those days you sought out the people who would criticize you, because you cannot learn from anyone who agrees with you all the time. I have the same problem with some of my children. They say, ‘Don’t criticize me’, I say ‘Why ever not? How else will you learn?’ In academic circles these days, nobody criticizes because people get offended.”

Indeed, it was the power of imagination that shaped the stories those legendary authors told, but it was also the graciousness and openness to listen that helped them find their way around the worlds they created.

And although Gresham admits that Lewis had been “worried about films,” he notes that Lewis knew the technology was evolving but he was “afraid of the uses to which it could be put.” Gresham elaborates that, “That fear was borne out by Hitler’s propaganda movies.”

But Lewis had been really perceptive, even back then. “One of Jack’s biggest problems with Narnia in relation to films is that he felt it was almost impossible to do justice to the character of Aslan with the technology that existed back then,” Gresham notes. But had Lewis seen how Aslan had been done in the movies now, Gresham knows that, “he would be absolutely thrilled with the majesty and dignity of the character.”


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