Reviews: family entertainment, documentaries, resources, books, music
Rebecca Grace
AFA Journal staff writer

April 2006 – Joy, sorrow  no fantasy to Narnia’s Creator
With the big screen release and soon-to-be DVD release of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which grossed over $600 million at the box office, writer C.S. Lewis was thrust back into the limelight piquing an interest among audiences worldwide. 

Just who is the mastermind behind the magical wardrobe and beneath the snow covered mountains of Narnia? Two notable film projects, one old and one new, attempt to answer this question and many others. 

C.S. Lewis: Beyond Narnia 
The literary genius is brought back to life in the one-hour docudrama titled C.S. Lewis: Beyond Narnia (2006), set to release on DVD March 28. It originally aired on the Hallmark Channel in December 2005 and has since been packaged with bonus features including Narnia facts, trivia and a recipe for Turkish Delight. 

Written and directed by Norman Stone, Beyond Narnia gives viewers a glimpse into the life of Lewis as they join him on his journey from childhood to adulthood. 

Did Lewis really own a wardrobe? Was the author’s home a safe haven for endangered children escaping war-torn London during World War II? Where did Lewis get the idea to write about a world inhabited by talking creatures? Did Lewis intentionally include Biblical symbolism in the Narnian chronicles? Are his personal experiences reflected in his writings?

These are some of the many inquiries addressed in Beyond Narnia as Lewis, played by Anton Rodgers, narrates the drama in first-person. His portrayal of Lewis is intriguing and mysterious – much like Lewis himself. In addition, the setting of the drama is authenticated through footage shot on location in England where Lewis studied, lived and worked. 

However, it takes viewers beyond the exterior of Lewis’ life and into the heart of a man who went from atheism to Christianity. The biographical story may put many skeptical believers at ease when it comes to understanding why a man of God would write about a magical fantasyland. 

According to Edward J. Murray, president and CEO of Faith & Values Media, Beyond Narnia “explores the events in Lewis’ life which not only led him to accept the existence of God, but to accept God as a central part of his life and his writings.”

“In this wonderful, witty, dramatic movie, Lewis speaks to us of his life, friendship, love, spiritual journey and his profound tales of Narnia,” added Janet Stokes of the Hollywood Film Advisory Board.

Insightful and engaging, the unrated movie is kid-friendly and acceptable for the family although it is unlikely to interest young viewers. Parents should note that there are elements of drinking and smoking in the movie as relevant to Lewis’ life and the time period in which he lived.

In general, it is a brief biographical sketch of Lewis’ life and the experiences that shaped him into a beloved author adored by the young and the young at heart. 

Shadowlands
While Beyond Narnia gives an overview of Lewis’ life, the 1993 film from Academy Award-winning director Richard Attenborough shoots straight for the heart with it’s emotional journey into the author’s grief-stricken love life.

Shadowlands is based on a true story and stars Anthony Hopkins as C.S. Lewis and Debra Winger as Joy Gresham. Although the story includes elements about the author’s creation of Narnia, the 133-minute film really details the romance that unfolds between Lewis and Gresham as he begins to experience the deep emotions about which he has written for so many years. 

These emotions become real to him when Gresham abruptly enters his world of academia forcing Lewis to accept his passion to love and to deal with his fear of pain. 

Deemed by the New York Post as “the year’s most extraordinary movie,” Shadowlands is best described by the film’s tagline that reads, “He distanced himself from love as he distanced himself from pain, until one woman got close enough to open his heart to the world.”

Now, the whole world can look on as Shadowlands introduces viewers to the heart of a man known for his scholarly successes more so than his personal life. However, after watching Shadowlands, it is evident that the trials and triumphs of Lewis’ life shaped all of his literary masterpieces.

Despite a dramatic  and climatic ending, Shadowlands is sometimes plodding. It is rated PG (for minor sexuality, intense emotional situations and heavy elements of smoking and drinking). Shadowlands is available for rental or purchase online.

For those who want to know more about Lewis, both Shadowlands and Beyond Narnia will complement the April 4 DVD release of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  It will be available as a one-disc and a Special 2-Disc Collector’s Edition which includes 10 hours of bonus features.

Lessons from the Lion is a 33-page illustrated workbook designed as an interactive learning guide for teaching Biblical lessons from the truths presented in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The workbook contains chapter summaries and activities. Scripture references and discussion topics are also included.